Friday, April 27, 2018

Record Breaking 8th Annual Lead-Education Day!

Our annual lead education day at the Michigan State Capitol was a record-breaking success! Over 100 participants traveled from all over the state to gather and rally support from our legislators to end lead poisoning in Michigan. This event is annually coordinated by MIALSH and our allies at Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) and we are proud to share that this year's efforts far exceeded our expectations. 
The day unfolded as 18 teams of 3-5 advocates took the State Capitol by storm as we met with nearly 90 state legislative offices in attempts to inform and promote more effective lead laws in Michigan. To supplement our efforts beyond the 90 sit-down conversations with lawmakers and their staff members, we diligently delivered to all 38 State Senate and 110 State House offices a comprehensive packet of thoughtful material summarizing the latest science on lead poisoning and prevention strategies. 
Lead Education Day participants represented many disciplines and walks of life- justice and environmental health advocates, state and local public officials, lead testing and abatement professionals, parents and even children. We purposely crafted each team to include a parent who could share a personal story of their experience and devastation with lead poisoning in their homes & communities. 
Special thanks are needed to be given to one of our top MIALASH partners-Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan- and the Grand Rapids parents who networked through many channels to assemble a busload of participants for the event. Their efforts and attendance gave Lead Education Day 2018 a powerful West Michigan voice that certainly made a difference. 
It must be noted that the most impressive and robust element of this event was the teamwork that fueled it. Reynolds displayed admirable organizational force along with several MIALSH members and MEC staff whos major contributions to logistics and preparation made Lead Education Day 2018 a remarkable success. As an intern for MEC and first-time Lead Ed Day participant, I can say that it was exhilarating to see such a diverse group of people band together to fight for a common cause and I felt empowered as I stood in the offices of my state representatives with a head full of knowledge and a heart full of hope. Days prior to the event I had become exhausted with the horrific stories of lead-poisoning and this feeling fueled my desire to make a difference. 
Lead Education Day is an impactful and meaningful form of community engagement and we believe its influence will ripple through the Capitol and bring forth long-lasting, positive change for Michigan. Cheers to teamwork!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

EPA Ordered to Update Lead Paint Rules

        In 2009, a coalition of 12 non-profit environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the National Center for Healthy Housing, petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to update the Nation’s lead paint laws.The groups requested that the amount of lead in dust be changed from 40 to 10 µg/ft2 for floors and from 250 to 100 µg/ft2 for interior window sills. The groups also requested that a change in the definition of lead-based paint occur. In 2009, the maximum level of lead allowed in paint was 5,000 ppm. The proposed rule change would bring that number down to 600 ppm, causing an 88% decrease of lead in paint.The EPA granted the request, and said that it would work with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to update the laws.
        Fast forward 8 years and the EPA still hadn’t done anything. HUD was petitioned by another collation to update it’s rules, and went ahead in the process. Strangely though, the EPA did not. August of 2016, the coalition filed a lawsuit against the EPA, but the decision wasn’t handed down until December of 2017. In its decision, the 9th Circuit Court found the EPA had unreasonably delayed updating the lead paint rules. The court issued a writ of mandamus, which forces the EPA update it’s rule on the amount of lead in dust and definition of lead-based paint in 90 days. Those changes are to be implemented within 1 year of creation.
        This a big step in the fight against childhood lead poisoning. By changing these rules, children all of the country will ultimately be exposed to less lead. The stricter standards will lower the threshold needed for abatement in many areas. These laws have not been updated since 2001, and need to be, if we are to properly protect children. The EPA knows this, as shown by accepting the petition and guidance from it’s Science Advisory Board, but failed to act. If it had not been for the percistance of non-profit coalition, these rules would have been untouched.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Detroit Ghost Factories

Lead is in dirt, just like it is in air and water. Lead naturally occurs in soil, but can also be left over from prior land use. Demolished buildings, incinerators, and gas stations can all leave behind high levels of lead in soil. Often forgotten, and possibly worse are “Ghost Factories”. “Ghost Factories” is a term USA Today gave to demolished or abandoned lead smelting factories that were active up until the 1960s.These factories were used to  separate lead from other metals to be sold as raw materials for manufacturing.In 2003, the newspaper took a look at “Ghost Factories” all across the country. Using old records, such as insurance and fire maps, and community knowledge, they found over 400 sites that the EPA and state environmental agencies had no idea about. These factories are not active now, but their effect can still be found.
In Detroit alone, there are 16 total sites. Many of the factories are long gone, as the Detroit Free Press found in 2003, and have been redeveloped or sit as empty lots. Some are now owned by companies like Pepsi or American Axle and Manufacturing. Others are owned by the City of Detroit. Even Ford Field even sits on top of a former factory. Most importantly, these factories have polluted the soil of surrounding residential areas, which show dangerously high levels of lead. This poses threats for gardening, and for children playing outside.
“Ghost Factories” raises problems. First, much of the cost of cleaning up these sites falls on the back of the taxpayers. Many of the companies that operated these factories simply don’t exist anymore, and can’t be held accountable. Second, the EPA and DEQ don’t have the money to clean up these sites. The MDEQ has only started clean up on one of these sites in the 14 years it has known about them. Last, “Ghost Factories” raise questions about the monitoring quality and capacity of agencies. It was the work of newspapers and the community that brought these sites to the attention of the public, not agencies.

You can learn more about Ghost Factories here: