Governor Granholm Unveils Plan to Protect Children from Lead Poisoning; Launches Testing Initiative

Contact: Liz Boyd 517-335-6397

Governor Granholm Unveils Plan to Protect Children from Lead Poisoning; Launches Testing Initiative

August 4, 2003

While visiting health care facilities offering lead testing to children in two communities today, Governor Jennifer M. Granholm announced that her administration will take immediate actions to help prevent lead poisoning in Michigan’s children.

Childhood Lead Poisoning Protection:
A Call to Action

Lead poisoning is one of the most common environmental child health problems in the United States and affects as many as 20,000 children under the age of six in Michigan.  If undetected, lead poisoning can cause permanent developmental disabilities, brain damage, even death.  Children encounter lead by ingesting lead paint chips, dust from household remodeling projects, or through lead contamination found in water and soil.

“Our children are our future,” Granholm said during stops in Saginaw and Detroit.  “Protecting their health today means that we’re protecting the health of our entire state tomorrow.  Lead poisoning is 100 percent incurable, but 100 percent preventable.”

The “Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention: A Call to Action” plan identifies short and long-term strategies to detect and reduce lead poisoning in Michigan, including nine strategies the state will undertake immediately.  Included in the immediate strategies is a package of legislative bills expected to be introduced this fall and four initiatives to be undertaken in cooperation with various departments of state government. 

The state initiatives include:

  • A new lead testing initiative spearheaded by the state’s Surgeon General, Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom. The initiative will provide lead testing education information to each new parent.  Additionally, a letter from the Surgeon General will be sent to children’s health care providers, explaining that the state expects all health care providers who treat children in high risk areas or in the Medicaid program to perform lead testing based on the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • A new focus on funding for lead abatement.  The Department of Community Health will refocus its current efforts to assist Michigan’s communities in writing successful grants to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), other agencies, and private foundations for lead testing and abatement activities.
  • Improved risk assessment.  The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will establish a pilot program in the Detroit area to determine if sites that are contaminated with lead pose an increased risk of exposure to children in the area.  The DEQ will screen available databases and information, inspect and sample sites, prioritize the sites that pose unacceptable risks to children, and take action to clean up those sites.  The DEQ will share this information with City of Detroit, MDCH, the Detroit Lead-Safe Partnership, community organizations, residents in the vicinity of the identified sites, and other interested stakeholders.
  • Increased loans for lead abatement activities in homes and apartments. The Michigan State Housing Development Authority will modify its current Property Improvement Program (PIP) loan program to assist in the cleanup of lead hazards.  The PIP is designed to help homeowners and landlords make improvements to their homes or small apartment buildings.

“Reducing the occurrence of lead poisoning in our communities requires a team effort,” said Wisdom.  “The state wants to partner with federal and local officials to make sure we are leveraging all possible funding to address this critical health risk.”

The Governor also called upon the Legislature to be a partner in this effort by passing legislation to:

  • Create a lead-safe housing registry.  The registry will inform families of those houses that have been inspected and found to be lead-safe and recognize rental property owners that have made effective lead abatement efforts.
  • Provide state civil/criminal penalties and fines for rental agencies, rental property owners, managers, and owners who knowingly fail to remediate lead-based paints, paint chips, and contaminated soils and then re-rent or sell housing to Michigan’s families.
  • Require electronic reporting by all laboratories providing analysis of blood lead samples from Michigan citizens.  The current rules strongly encourage, but do not mandate, electronic reporting.
  • Create a multi-agency/multi-stakeholder task force with a specific charge to develop, within six months, a “Michigan Strategic Lead Poisoning Prevention Action Plan” for making all Michigan families lead-safe. The plan will specifically identify needed changes in health policies and legislation and establish concrete proposals for funding lead testing, remediation, and abatement activities.
  • Require fee-for-service and Medicaid-managed care plans to increase the percentage of Medicaid covered eligible children tested in each plan so that, within three years, every plan would reach at least 80 percent of all children who should be tested according to federal regulations.

The bi-partisan package of bills is expected to be introduced this fall.  A number of co-sponsors, including Rep. Carl Williams (D-Saginaw), Rep. Artina Tinsley Hardman (D-Detroit), Rep. Chris Kolb (D-Ann Arbor), Rep. Randy Richardville (R-Monroe), Rep. Stephen Ehardt (R-Lexington), and Sen. Hansen Clarke (D-Detroit), Sen. Martha G. Scott (D-Highland Park), Sen. Mark Schauer (D-Battle Creek), and Sen. Beverly S. Hammerstrom (R-Temperance), have identified this issue as a key priority.

"Governor Granholm's decision to address the severity of this issue by coming to Saginaw signifies how much of a problem childhood lead poisoning is in our community," said Rep. Carl Williams (D-Saginaw).  "Our kids deserve better.  We need to make sure that our children are being screened and tested for lead poisoning before it's too late.  I am going to work with the Governor and the Legislature to accomplish that goal."

“It is absolutely imperative to the safety of our children that we make sure they live in housing that is found to be lead-safe or lead free,” said Rep. Alberta Tinsley Hardman (D-Detroit).  “I’m looking forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to accomplish this goal.”

The action plan was developed by a lead abatement workgroup organized by the Governor to reduce lead poisoning in young children.  The workgroup included participants from the MDCH, MSHDA, DEQ, DIT, and DMB.

“This plan is a huge leap forward in protecting our children from the effects of lead poisoning,” Granholm said.  “We’re not waiting to take action – we’re linking arms across government and across communities to help our children today.”

In addition to the nine immediate action steps, the plan also outlines additional short and long-term steps the state will take to further reduce lead poisoning.  

The state estimates that roughly 50 percent of all children under the age of six are either Medicaid-eligible and/or live in high-risk neighborhoods where there are a significant number of older homes with lead-based paint.  It is estimated that more than 400,000 children should be tested for lead poisoning and that as many as 14,600 additional children are afflicted with lead poisoning but have not been tested.  

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