GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The City of Grand Rapids and Kent County Health Department are launching a joint awareness and educational campaign that's focused on the hazards of lead exposure for children.

The campaign's theme — "Don't Play Around" — highlights the hidden dangers that put children at risk of lead exposure, including dust, paint chips and soil. They're often found in homes built before 1978, the same year lead-based paints were outlawed.

Funded by a grand from the Michigan Medicaid Lead Hazard Control Community Development, the campaign will specifically target those at greatest risk of lead exposure — Medicaid-enrolled families living in the 49507, 49504 and 49503 zip codes.

The City said 80% of homes in those zip codes were built before 1960.

“We want to make sure Grand Rapids is a safe place for everyone to live, including our youngest residents,” said Connie Bohatch, the City’s managing director of community services. “These outreach efforts are intended to educate parents and others who care for children about lead risks and empower them to help keep their loved ones safe. We are grateful for our friends at the Kent County Health Department for their partnership in this important work.” 

Lead is most harmful to children, especially those younger than 6, because their brains and nervous systems are developing rapidly. Elevated blood lead levels in children can cause issues with growth and development as well as health, learning and behavioral problems.

The campaign is centered on an interactive website – DontPlayAround.org – and self-assessment website app that allows users to identify possible lead risks in their home. The website and app – both in English and Spanish – provide resources for residents who think they or their loved ones may be at risk of lead exposure.

The campaign uses the children’s game hide-and-seek to highlight the hidden dangers of lead and warns against playing around with lead. It also urges residents who think they or their loved ones, especially children younger than 6, have been exposed to lead to get tested. Lead testing is available through a family doctor or by calling the Kent County Health Department at 616-632-7063 to schedule an appointment.

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