Freep: Don’t Give Up the War on Lead

Freaking Scary Lead Snake

Photo illustration by Rick Nease

The Detroit Free Press Editorial Board called for increased funding in Detroit’s fight against lead poisoning, highlighting the breadth of the problem, and detailing the life-derailing effects that lead has on children.

The article featured several key Detroit partners including the Institute for Population Health (formally the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion), the Wayne State University Center for Urban Studies, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, and CLEARCorps/Detroit.

In seemingly contradicting moves, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, formally a major funder of lead poisoning prevention, slashed lead funding in 2013 from $29 million to $1.8 million, while lowering the threshold for what is takes to be considered lead poisoned from 10 ug/dL to 5 ug/dL.  The CDC now estimates that 500,000 american children are currently lead poisoned, up from 255,000 children under the previous threshold.

The fight against lead poisoning continues despite the loss of certain funding sources. For the first time in history, the State of Michigan allocated $1.25 million in lead poisoning prevention in its general operating budget for the 2013/2014 fiscal year.  The money will contribute to the Michigan Department of Community Health Healthy Homes Section’s Lead Safe Homes Program.  The new funding will allow the doubling of homes the program abates for lead hazards annually in the City of Detroit from 35 to 70, support the hiring of an Elevated Blood-Lead Level (EBL) Investigator to investigate serious or complex lead poisonings, and increase abatement efforts in other areas of the State.  Furthermore, private and quasi-private partners continue to serve as valuable funding sources.  The Kresge Foundation and the Skillman Foundation are key supporters of not only lead poisoning prevention, but Healthy Homes, which addresses health and safety as it relates to the structure of a home.

The editorial discusses a recent University of Michigan study that showed direct correlation between Detroit Public Schools students, their lead levels, and their performance on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP).  According to the study, on average, the more lead a child absorbed, the worse they did on the MEAP later on as an adolescent.

Lead poisoning is directly connected to deteriorating housing stock built before 1978, and roughly 90% of the housing stock in the City of Detroit could contain lead hazards. A child who ingests leaded dust they get on their fingers while crawling or playing can sustain irreparable brain damage.  The fight against lead poisoning is an investment in the health and future success of our children, and requires collaboration and support across a community of concerned organizations.

Read the article here. 


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