West Michigan has many older homes. If your home was built before 1978, experts say you should assume it has lead paint in it, which can be toxic to your family.

All this week, 13 On Your Side is taking a close look at the lead problem in West Michigan. with a close look at the lead problem in our area.

Often, lead paint is discovered in rental properties. "Our housing market is tight. Sometimes, moving out isn't an option”, says Hannah Gilliam, with the Healthy Homes Coalition. "Housing stock here is predominately old and dates before 1978."

Lead-based paint was banned in 1978 and since then some of those older homes have been renovated -- but others have simply been painted over or remain the same. "Lead is tricky in the fact that it can go undetected."

The landlord of a rental property is required to provide tenants with written information about the possibility of lead in their home. But, is not required to have an assessment done. Gilliam would like to see that changed. "It's not fair for me to come-in and decide whether I want to be homeless or I want my home to be healthy for my children.”

Gilliam says the burden lies on the renter -- and if you’re living on a low income, those resources are limited. If you can't afford a professional lead assessment, you can get an inexpensive kit at the hardware store.

Gilliam says the the swabs target small areas, "Because of that, it's a limited test. It doesn't give you what your full exposure might be."

Which is were Healthy Homes Coalition can step-in.

If lead is suspected in the home or there's already been a child with elevated blood lead levels, a homeowner or renter can apply for the program: "We address families that have children 5 or younger in the home. It's really where it’s imperative because we're doing the most growth."

Gilliam says there are plenty of landlords that want to make sure their homes are safe. Many of them are part of the "Get the Lead Out" program. A list of safe homes is available online at www.gettheleadoutgr.org.

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