Tag Archives: Lead poisoning

Detroit kids’ lead poisoning rates higher than Flint

W Boston front

Lead in the news surprises no one after the tragedy we’ve witnessed in Flint. The Detroit News has highlighted the pervasiveness of lead in Detroit as well, where we are seeing lead poisoning rates among tested children that are more than four times higher than in Flint. The city has decided to take a primary prevention focus by passing an amendment to their Rental Property Maintenance Ordinance. The changes introduced create a path for landlords to get their rental properties up-to-code and lead-safe within a certain time frame. With most of the housing stock built before the 1978 laws banning the use of lead-based paint in homes, this issue touches nearly every homeowner and tenant in Detroit. The Detroit Health Department has observed an increase in lead poisoning rates for the first time in over a decade. Along with the health department, CLEARCorps Detroit and Wayne State University’s Center for Urban Studies have partnered to reach out to families to inform them about lead poisoning, provide options for grant opportunities to renovate and remove lead hazards from the home, and create a dialogue around healthy housing.

To learn more, read the full article from the Detroit News here.

Detroit City Council OKs stricter rental property ordinance

Wooden window with lead paint. This is a common sight at Detroit properties

Wooden window with lead paint. This is a common sight at Detroit properties


On October 31st, 2017, the Detroit City Council opted to pass an amendment to their Rental Property Maintenance Code. This new amendment creates a system for outreach and enforcement with  the goal of bringing rental properties in Detroit up to code withing two years.

This amended ordinance will be phased out in “compliance zones,” which are geographic areas where enforcement will begin, and then reach out through the rest of the city in staggered start dates. Once a “zone” is opened, landlords will have six months to get their properties up to code. New zones will be opened 90 days following the opening of the previous zone.

If a landlord does not bring their property up to code within the six month window, they will not legally be allowed to collect rent. For three months following the initial six month period, a tenant must put their rent into escrow. If the landlord brings the property up to code during those three months, the rent money is handed over. If the property is not brought up to code, then the tenant may recollect their rent money that was placed in escrow. This process then repeats if the home continues to remain without repair.

In addition, this amendment also provides for the city withholding a landlord’s certificate of compliance if more than $1,000 in property taxes has been unpaid for over six months, year lead inspection requirements, reduction in inspection frequency for landlords without blight violations and paid taxes, as well as an more rapid path for appealing the denial of a certificate of compliance.

This is a major step to bring Detroit’s housing stock into the 21st century. As we continue our fight to eliminate lead poisoning in the city, we would like to applaud the Detroit City Council for passing this amendment to protect the health of the children in our community.

For more information, click here.

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. 

U of M Study: Lead Exposure Directly Connected to Lower DPS Performance

In a recent study to be published in the March issue of the American Journal of Public Health, the lead Detroit Public Schools (DPS) students ingested directly effected their academic performance on State standardized tests.

UM study lead poisoning

Credit Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

The study took Blood Lead Level (BLL) data from the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion, and correlated BLL’s to test scores on the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) for when those students tested for lead as young children took the MEAP as third, fifth, and eighth graders.

Not only did the study show severe academic impairment for students with childhood Elevated Blood Lead Levels (EBLs) as determined by current federal standards, it showed that students with lower BLLs also showed decreased academic performance.

Students with blood levels of 2-5 micrograms/decileter (ug/dl), a level currently not deemed dangerous, had a 33% higher likelihood of a poor MEAP performance.  Students whose BLLs were over 5 ug/dl as children had a 50% higher likelihood of doing poorly on the MEAP.  Currently, the federal government deems levels of 10 ug/dl and above to be dangerous, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests a level of 5 ug/dl should be the poisoning threshold.

The study connects the ubiquitous presence of lead in DPS students to the district’s equally stark academic failings.  Out of 39,199 DPS students tested for lead as children between 1990 and 2008, 23 did not have lead in their bodies.  In results released in February 2013, 14.8% of DPS students passed the MEAP’s math portion.

Information used in the previous summary came from the following sources:

Read the University of Michigan’s press release for the study HERE.

Read the Michigan Radio Article HERE.

Read the Detroit Free Press Article HERE.

Read the study itself HERE.

Graphic: Interactive map shows lead levels in Detroit neighborhoods over time.

Data: Lead poisoning by Detroit Public School