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New bill would help fight Michigan's battle with child lead poisoning

March 23, 2017

Michigan Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-Lansing) has introduced a bill to the state senate that seeks to optimize the effectiveness of the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention and Control Commission. 

Hertel is concerned for children in the area being poisoned by lead from lead paint in old homes. If Senate Bill 0058 passes, efforts to prevent child lead poisoning will receive attention. 

In 2004 when the city of Lansing started upgrading its water pipe infrastructure, Hertel said he believed it was a misuse of funding and the focus that the leading cause of lead poisoning in children in Michigan is from lead paint, not lead-contaminated water.

The decibel amount of lead in the blood of children has changed from the previous 10 to five decibels where children will be considered poisoned by lead. The new legislation proposed by Hertel will clarify this definition in Michigan, which will be crucial when monitoring children's blood for lead exposure and poisoning.

Hertel said he believes Lansing and East Lansing have child lead poisoning problem, the culprit being all the lead paint used in old housing stock in the area.

Lead use in paint ended in paint 1978, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, yet many homes built before then are housing residents with lead paint either exposed, painted over, improperly removed or in the yard and soil beneath the home, which poses groundwater contaminating risks.

“A dime-sized piece of lead paint chip from the 1950s will poison a 2 year old,” Hertel said. “We have a huge lead poisoning problem throughout the entire state, but certainly in my district. And we need to do everything possible to make sure that we're committing to their housing stock and making sure that people are protected.” 

Hertel once served as former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s liaison for community health before he was in the Senate. During his time he worked on the Granholm Child Protection Package, passing bills to protect children from lead. 

“Unfortunately since she was governor, a lot of that work has been forgotten,” Hertel said. “I think Flint has brought this issue back to the table, and we should be doing everything we can to prevent lead poisoning.”

Lead poisoning is 100 percent preventable, Hertel said, and the consequences are great.

“It takes points right off of your IQ. It is a neurotoxin, so a child that is lead positioned is statistically less likely to graduate college, graduate high school, morel likely to end up in prisons and more likely to end up on our social welfare programs,” Hertel said. “It is something that we can directly invest in that will give the children in the state a much higher chance to succeed, if we can just prevent these things from happening. And it’s very preventable.” 

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