GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A new team is being formed in Kent County aimed at ending child lead exposure.
The team is being led by Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, the Kent County Board of Commissioners and the Kent County Health Department.
The call for more awareness and funding to fight lead poisoning stems from several county board meetings with upset parents, concerned about lead in their homes.
A 2014 study showed the 49507 zip code in Grand Rapids has more lead-poisoned children than the city of Flint at that time.
"One of the recommendations is that we have to coordinate and collaborate more effectively if we are going to tackle this issue." said Bliss. " It is not just an issue that lives in the city, even though we see a lot of children in the city poisoned by lead. This is a county-wide issue and it really needs a multi-jurisdictional response."
The rate of elevated lead blood levels has decreased over the last several decades, but the risk still remains high. The county has also seen increases in cases in recent years as more people undergo testing after they learn their home is at risk.
Screening for lead poisoning, particularly in one and 2-year-olds, is a necessity if they live in homes built before 1978. Young children are at the highest risk because lead poisoning is said to affect behavior, growth and performance in school.
“If the test comes back positive, they should really be talking to us about case management," said Adam London, director of the Kent County Health Department. "We will partner a nurse with that family so they can talk about nutrition, about cleaning in the home and we can inspect the home to find where exactly is lead coming from. We can then empower them with information to stop that lead exposure from happening."
Millions have been invested in the community to combat this problem. Since 2004, over 1,700 homes have become lead-safe. Lead awareness and education has also been provided to over 1800 residents, property owners and contractors.
If you are concerned your home may have lead in it, Medicaid and private insurance will cover the tests. For more information on lead poisoning and ways you can get help from the action team, visit the Kent County's website and go to the "Lead Action" tab.