Much has been made of the water crisis in Flint, and with good reason. However, lead is also a major problem in Grand Rapids.
According to a study released Tuesday morning by the Healthy Homes Coalition, more kids have been poisoned in the 49507 zip code than in all of Flint's seven zip codes combined.
49507 covers much of the south side of Grand Rapids, from Franklin Street to 28th, and from U.S. 131 to Kalamazoo Avenue. That area has since a 40% increase in lead poisoning cases in the last two years.
Other zip codes are having lead poisoning issues too. However, in Grand Rapids, the problem is not lead-tainted water, but lead-based paint. In 1978 lead-based paint was banned. Any home built before then is at risk of lead poisoning.
Paint flakes and peels, and according to the Healthy Homes Coalition, when it's improperly scraped or sanded off, dangerous lead dust can be kicked up.
Right now, homes in Kent County aren't required to be tested for lead, but homeowners are encouraged to do so. Organizations like the Health Homes Coalition and the Get The Lead Out Grand Rapids program are trying to make it easier for people to test their homes. The City of Grand Rapids Housing Rehabilitation Program can offer testing given the property owner's permission, but once a house is tested the owner is legal obligated to fix the issue. Their office can be reached at 616-456-3030.
Parents are urged to get kids ages 6 and younger tested, especially if they're 1 or 2 years old. The best route is to have your child tested by a family doctor, but if that's not an option call the Kent County Health Department at 616-632-7063.
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