GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Earlier this month, 13 ON YOUR SIDE brought you a series of reports on West Michigan's lead problem, and the state is taking steps forward.
In a partnership with the Michigan Child Lead Exposure Elimination Commission, the Kent County Health Department hosted the public forums on Thursday, May 31, for feedback on the commission's five-year action plan.
The Action Plan's focus is to eliminate lead poisoning hazards, and it is made up of 51 steps, categorized in six areas: testing, education, data, partnerships, funding and regulations.
Tabitha Williams attended the meeting to represent fellow parents.
“I’m hoping to spread awareness. We need to be a part of these meetings; we need to be a part of planning the solution,” Williams said.
She and her kids live on the south east side of Grand Rapids.
Her zip code, 49507, has the most lead-poisoned children of any zip code in Michigan.
“Parents are in the dark, and it's time to wake up," Williams said. "It's not that they don't care. It's not that they’re ignorant. They really do not know.”
Williams speaks from personal experience: her kids suffer from allergies, and conditions such as lead dust made them worse.
“All the time I'm trying to improve my children's health. I was really hindering them by not being educated in that area,” Williams said.
Thankfully her kids don’t have elevated blood lead levels.
“But my soil tested positive for lead which was concerning because my children play in my backyard,” Williams said.
She represents the core community members the forums aim to reach.
“From land owners, homeowners, property management people, builders, renovators, parents of children who may have been impacted,” said Eden Wells, the chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
People involved with health care, like Alex Markham, a Mercy Health Medical Assistant, are also encouraged to attend.
“As a parent you don't know what you don't know," Markham said. "It's important for physician offices to know the housing hazards so we can educate on that.”
These forums will be held all across the state from May through July.
“To abate every home or every water pipe or any issues we have within our plan is a lot of funding and can take many years but we have to start now,” Wells said.
And for Williams, time is of the essence.
“All of the plan and correction is positive but what would it do for our babies that are being affected right now.”
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