Legislation would take more steps to prevent lead exposure for toddlers
Two bills being considered by the Michigan Legislature would help reduce lead exposure to people and ensure kids are tested for lead.
Right now, only toddlers on Medicaid are required to get tests for lead in their blood. That’s about one out of four young kids. It’s likely a lot more toddlers are exposed to lead paint.
“Seventy percent of our housing stock in Michigan was built before 1978, which was when the use of lead paint was banned,” said Ellen Vial, engagement director for the Michigan Environmental Council and facilitator for Michigan Alliance for Lead Safe Homes.
Under proposed legislation sponsored by Democratic State Senator John Cherry, lead tests would be added to a child’s regular medical checkup routine.
Often people think of lead poisoning because of drinking water, as was the case in Flint. But many more children end up with high blood lead levels because of exposure to lead dust from paint. Some culprits are painted window sills that can release lead dust when raised or lowered. The dust can get on tables where children eat or on floors and carpets where toddlers play.
See this in-depth story about lead abatement.
A second bill sponsored by Democratic Representative Rachel Hood would change who has authority to see that contractors are certified for repairs of homes that likely have lead paint. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has that authority now. The legislation would give that authority to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
“DHHS control would mean that we are keeping up more with our contractors and make sure that they’re lead certified when they go into work on homes that are build before 1978,” Vial said.
That was the year the federal government banned the use of lead in paint for homes.
Millions of dollars have been spent in cities with a lot of older homes such as Grand Rapids, Flint, and Detroit. The funds paid for work on lead abatement, but there are so many houses with lead paint, that there's not yet been enough money allocated to make all of them safe.
Vial says there’s bipartisan support for both bills.