Lead poisoning in Kent County is up nearly 31% from 2014 to 2016.
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, 615 children in the county had elevated blood-lead levels last year.
Paul Haan, executive director of the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan, a non-profit that tries to help children stay healthy by avoiding harmful housing conditions, says drinking water isn't the cause for the increase in Kent County, but lead-based paint is.
“There are many communities where we have older housing with paint that's more than 100 years old that's starting to be released into the home environment and causing hazards for kids,” Haan said.
According to Haan, the fact that Kent County doesn’t require homes to be tested for lead is a contributing factor to these numbers.
“Testing for lead is a good idea of course, but it’s not inexpensive. The county might not require the tests but that is the information that parents need to have in order to be able to keep their kids safe,” he said.
Haan says the lead poisoning issue is on par with the issues caused in the Flint water crisis.
Steve Kelso, marketing and communications manager with the Kent County Health Department, says the lead poisoning threat in West Michigan is larger than most people might expect.
“This lead issue is huge, more kids in the 49507 ZIP code in Grand Rapids have lead poisoning than in any other county in the state,” Kelso said.
That zip code had about 40% of all the lead poisoning cases among children in the county last year.
The 49507, 49504 and 49503 zip codes, all of which are in inner city Grand Rapids, have a combined 398 children suffering from lead poisoning. That’s nearly two-thirds of all the children with lead poisoning in the county.
For more information about lead poisoning in Kent County, visit the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan's website.