GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- The water crisis in Flint is drawing attention to the issue of lead poisoning in children.
As you likely know, many children in the Flint area are showing elevated levels of lead in their blood, from drinking the contaminated water.
Paul Haan from the Healthy Homes Coalition in Grand Rapids joined the WZZM 13 News at 5 on Friday to talk about the dangers of lead.
The most common sources in Grand Rapids remain deteriorating lead-based paint, tainted soil around older houses, leaded gasoline, and the trace amounts of these materials that get into household dust.
Neighborhoods with older housing and near older, major roadways are the hot spots in Grand Rapids, especially where that housing is distressed. Generally speaking, the neighborhoods with the highest prevalence of lead exposure in children are the older neighborhoods in Grand Rapids and in far northeast Wyoming, especially on the southeast and southwest sides of Grand Rapids.
The latest City of Grand Rapids water quality report from 2014 tells us that of the 50 homes tested in Grand Rapids, none had lead content of greater than the EPA threshold of 15 parts per billion. The highest level was 12 ppb, and the average 2.2 ppb. We have a stable history of providing water in Grand Rapids and the chemists in that department have been able to manage the lead situation quite well. In Flint, they had a dramatic change in the water source, so yes, they did have a unique situation that set them up for a unique set of problems.
Unfortunately, a blood test is the only way to determine whether someone is suffering from lead poisoning; there are no other indicators. It is recommended by the state, the CDC, and the American Academy of Pediatrics that all 1- and 2-year-olds in Grand Rapids be tested once a year, that all children living in pre-1978 housing be tested, and that children in other high-risk situations be tested. When in doubt, a blood test is your best defense.
The State of Michigan has been making millions of dollars available for the past three years to fix homes with lead-based paint hazards. More information about that resource, as well as local programs, can be found at www.GetTheLeadOutGR.com.
While water has not been identified as the primary source of lead poisoning in Kent County in the past decade or so, those concerned about lead in the water can have their own water tested at their expense or can install an NSF-approved water filter.