Wednesday, July 17, 2019

A Bold Plan; Lead on the Center Stage of Julian Castro's 2020 Presidential Platform

As I have traveled around the country and tell people I am from the Flint area, their response has changed from not knowing where Flint is, to a comment relating to lead in the water. The lead that we released into our environment for decades through gasoline, paint, and pipes did not simply go away. It is still in our homes and in our soil. The Flint Water Crisis put a spotlight on the issue, and it is increasingly putting lead on the national stage. This momentum has resulted in one presidential candidate incorporating lead poisoning and prevention policies in his political platform.

Julian Castro recently released a plan that makes lead a priority. He calls for $5 billion per year for 10 years “to remediate lead in paint and soil and replace lead pipes in areas of highest need.” Although this amount does not meet the estimated $500 billion needed to eliminate lead, it is a step in the right direction on an often overlooked issue. Castro also plans to convene a Presidential Taskforce on lead to coordinate an interagency and intergovernmental response, endorses the Home Lead Safety Tax Credit Act, and updates standards for homes and public buildings.

In the wake of the Flint Water Crisis, Castro plans to improve prevention measures and our ability to respond. His plan does this by allowing federal funds to be used for a hybrid disaster, which is caused partially by nature and partially by humans. Blood testing of newborns and children up to age two would be expanded through healthcare and “as a requirement in government-financed healthcare programs.” These are just some of the steps Castro plans to take to address the damage being done by exposure to lead.

The lead poisoning that occurred in Flint was tragic, but the spotlight on lead has not only made Americans but national leaders more aware of the dangers of lead in our aging infrastructure and homes. National leadership is crucial in order for lead poisoning and prevention policies to reach all communities. Including lead policies in a presidential campaign is moving us in the right direction and may encourage other leaders to take a stronger stance as well. To read more about Julian Castro’s plan, follow the link below.

Written by Marc Jaruzel, Michigan Environmental Council intern and University of Michigan graduate student pursuing a Master of Public Policy

Monday, July 1, 2019

Experts find rising lead levels in surrounding neighborhoods after Notre Dame fire

On April 15, 2019, the Notre Dame in Paris, France was ablaze. Emergency workers and experts were called in to contain the fire and work to preserve the art and relics stored inside the ancient cathedral. Only three workers suffered smoke-inhalation injuries, and the majority of the damage to the building from the fire was to the roof. The historic interior was preserved, as well as the two famous pipe organs that fill the city streets every Sunday morning. The world breathed a sigh of relief that no major damage had been caused, but they may have spoken too soon.

New data from government researchers showed that lead contaminates were released from the structure into the environment. The lead in the building came from the roofing material used in the cathedral, which released large amounts of lead dust into the atmosphere. For weeks after the fire, people living along the area thought that the lead risk was a "localized threat" but now it is believed to potentially affect areas far beyond the Ile de la Cite. After weeks of protests by local environmental groups such as Robin des Bois, local police officials confirmed lead contamination across all of the neighborhoods surrounding the towering cathedral.

People living in the affected areas were asked by the French government to wipe down the furniture in their homes, keep their windows closed, and filter their water as precautions to prevent lead poisoning. Since most of the lead went into the air from the blaze, local officials state that taking these steps can help people living in these areas to protect themselves. However, the effects of lead in the air can last for months and even years after the initial introduction. In fact, lead is an element that does not go away or dissipate. That's why some groups are calling the surrounding neighborhoods an "industrial wasteland".

The World Health Organization states that even a little lead is enough to make a negative impact on the development of children's behavior and IQ. In short, the fire at Notre Dame is significant and galvanizing for France but also for lead advocates worldwide.

The Notre Dame sustained heavy roof damage, spire damage, and interior damage after the accidental fire. The biggest damage, however, could quite possibly be to the children and people surrounding the cathedral. President Macaron has promised to rebuild the cathedral by the 2024 Summer Olympics held in Paris but has failed to come up with a plan to address this issue.

For more information about the details of this post: click here:

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

High Lead Exposures Cause Families to Evacuate Homes

Did you know it costs $5,000-$20,000 to remove lead from a home? Many residents don’t have this kind of money to eliminate lead hazards in their homes. In the alternative, moving and trying to find a lead-safe home may not be easy either. Relocation costs can restrict low-income families from moving to safer housing and may be hard to find. Keeping in mind that each case is different, the average relocation cost in Detroit is $2,000 per family and this includes application fees, first month’s rent, moving costs, and utility turn-on.

In Cleveland, Ohio, state grants are now available to families in need of financial help to relocate to lead safe homes. The grants up to $1,500 are centered on short term emergencies for low-income families with children or pregnant women. Prior to June of 2018, Ohio families could apply for assistance but had to show proof that they were being evicted. The requirements have changed and the county now accepts multiple forms of proof of need. This kind of program may be a good fit for Michigan families feeling trapped by a home with too high of costs to make lead safe.

Currently in Michigan, childhood lead poisoning is being addressed through a pilot program in Detroit. Mary Sue Schottenfels and her team from ClearCorps are spearheading this pilot. She will comment on the current Detroit pilot program where families are spending less money by relocating rather than abating their homes at an upcoming MIALSH monthly coalition call.

It is important to note that relocation is cheaper than abatement if there is safe housing to move families to in their communities. The average cost to lead abate a home in Michigan is $25,000 but in cities with larger housing, such as Detroit, it is much higher. The dollar amount depends on the number of windows, doors, corroded pipes, amount of siding, lead-based paint and increases the more square footage the house has. Although lead removal is expensive, these remedies are capable of lasting up to 20 years, yet need to be re-checked annually depending on which abatement activities were completed. Lead abatement may not be the solution for every family so we need to keep other alternatives on the table while trying to be frugal with our dollars. That is why the Detroit relocation pilot is so important.

For more information on the ongoing relocation pilot program in Detroit, check out this link:

Monday, April 1, 2019

2019 Lead Education Day Rocks the Capitol

Our 9th annual Lead Education Day at the Michigan State Capitol had another great turnout with over 100 participants RSVPd from all areas of Michigan. Our goal was to educate Legislators on the issues of lead poisoning in the state. Coordinated by the Michigan Alliance for Lead Safe Homes (MIALSH) and the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC), the day was filled with meaningful conversations with lawmakers, a keynote speaker, a parents’ perspective all in the historic Boji Tower, and many networking opportunities.

The event included 16 teams with a knowledgeable team leader as we met with at least 70 legislative offices.  Each group was purposefully organized to consist of diverse geography considering the experience of the individuals. Team members shared their knowledge with lawmakers and their staff on MIALSH policy priorities. Some of these topics included universal lead testing for all Michigan children aged one and two, finding dedicated funding, and lead-based paint inspections for properties built before 1978 intended for occupancy. Teams also provided all members of the State Senate and State House offices folders full of valuable articles on current lead poisoning and prevention findings and data.

Our annual Lead Education Day is a fun and purposeful way for the voices of engaged Michiganders to be heard by legislators. We hope to see our efforts prompt positive change and success around these critical issues of lead poisoning prevention and look forward to next year’s event!

Monday, February 4, 2019

Join Us at the Capitol to Help End Lead Poisoning in Michigan

Come join us for Lead Education Day on Thursday, March 14th from 8:00am to 4:00pm at the Michigan State Capitol! This event will be coordinated by the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) and members from the Michigan Alliance for Lead Safe Homes (MIALSH).  We will be educating lawmakers on how to end the issues of childhood lead poisoning in Michigan. This event includes:
·         Joining small teams with a seasoned team leader and meeting with state legislative leaders to share knowledge about lead poisoning prevention opportunities and challenges in Michigan
·         A light breakfast and a hot lunch with an inspiring keynote speaker
·         Carpools and ride shares available for those in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Detroit, and surrounding areas
·         A pre Lead Education Day training webinar (which will be recorded to listen to at any time) outlining what to expect the day of, a review of our talking points, and answering your questions to prepare you for the exciting and worthwhile day ahead
·         A “capitol steps” group photo to remember the day

This is a great way to meet new people who care about lead poisoning prevention and network with other advocates! A wide variety of people come including lead abatement professionals, contractors, families, state and local government officials. Kids are welcome as well.

The deadline to register is March 6th, 2019

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Lead Poisoning in Preschoolers

Although high-quality preschools have been proven to help children with insufficient cognitive developments, this is not the case when it comes to lead poisoning. For instance, children at high-quality preschools in Ohio cannot catch up with their classmates in certain subjects at school. Children who have a past of lead exposure have a challenging time keeping up with their peers, regardless of what preschool they attend. According to research by Case Western Reserve University, children with lead poisoning were half as likely as their schoolmates to attain “on track” scores in literacy and language when they start kindergarten. The researchers discovered another displeasing result: From 2011 to 2016, only one in five children beginning kindergarten who were qualified for Medicaid were tested for lead poisoning at both ages one and two years old in Cleveland public schools.
Every student at the George L. Forbes Early Learning Center is required to partake in a lead test before entering school. The teachers and health coordinator receive this information to further educate and modify the students’ learning experiences. The Case Western Reserve University concluded that the majority of children have experienced at least one screening for lead poisoning before starting kindergarten. However, for those attending different preschools and did not partake in a test can develop long term health risks. They reported that by not testing your child, it can disguise the incremental effects of lead poisoning over a lifetime. Researchers suspect one reason some parents fail to take their kids to get tested is the challenge of making the extra trip or staying the whole duration of the visit.
If there is no continuous exposure to lead, it can leave the body after about a month. However, the toxins can last in the brain for up to two years. Kindergarteners are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, including irreversible damage to their brain development. A child’s brain is rapidly developing and exposure to lead is particularly harmful to the nervous system, creating deficits in multiple functioning areas. Lead poisoning has a negative impact on test performance, health, and cognitive development.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

New study shows traces of lead in spices

Lead pipes, contaminated soil and paint chips in pre-1978 homes are common sources of lead exposure for children. Recently however researchers from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services concluded that cooking spices, herbal remedies and ceremonial powders should be added to that list as well. The study tested chili powder, red pepper, cumin, coriander, anise, turmeric and vanilla in 983 homes from January 2011 to January 2018 and found that spices in 7 of the homes had high levels of lead. As for how lead was able to get into these spices, researchers point to imports. The U.S. imports 95% of its spices from countries with heavy pollution from battery-manufacturing plants, mines and leaded gasoline. Additionally, spices are brought back into the country from travelers or purchased online.

Spices are not considered a source of food for kids by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) despite some being popular flavor choices for the age group. Vanilla, for example is used in sweets frequently consumed by children such as cupcakes, ice cream and milkshakes. In addition, there are many children whose parents come from cultures where spices are used more in cooking like Southeast Asia. Even more problematic and concerning is the fact that there is currently no limit on lead contamination in spices. For children, there is no safe blood lead level, and even low levels of exposure can lower IQ and decrease concentration. Adults are not protected from the effects of lead either; according to the CDC, men and women experience high blood pressure, reproductive issues, nerve complications, joint pain and concentration issues after consuming lead.

The researchers who performed the study recommend that “lead investigators samples spices, herbal remedies, and ceremonial powders and attempt to document product origin and level of consumptions.” In addition, food regulators should test the products for lead and other heavy metals at the port. Finally, they urge the U.S. set a national limit on amount of lead allowed in spices. More on the study can be read here: