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Bills introduced to overhaul how the state handles lead paint hazards

Peeling lead paint.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

A new package of bills in Lansing could dramatically change how the state handles the problem of lead-based paint.

Lead based paint was banned in 1978, but it remains the leading cause of lead poisoning in the state.

“We spend so much money dealing with the outcomes of this issue,” says Rachel Hood, a Democratic state representative from Grand Rapids who is a sponsor of the bills. “It makes all the sense in the world to just find a way to get capital into these buildings, spend the money and make them safe for everyone in to the future.”

The “Healthy Homes, Healthy Families” package includes 10 separate bills, HB 5359 – 5367 and HB 5406.

One bill would require all children under the age of six  to be tested for lead exposure, and make the results part of their immunization record.

Other bills in the package would change the standard under which the state is required to take action based on blood test results. Currently state health officials must contact local health officials and families when a child’s blood test shows 10 or more micrograms of lead in blood per deciliter. The bills would change the threshold to 5 micrograms per deciliter.

"I think we can come up with something better than nothing, which is what we have right now," says State Representative Rachel Hood.

Other bills would require all residential properties built before 1978 to undergo a lead inspection before they could be sold, require landlords to test for lead, and change the standards under which landlords can be held responsible for elevated blood lead levels in children living in their properties. The bills would also create a 25 cent per gallon tax on certain paint to pay for future lead abatements and give contractors a tax break for doing lead remediation work.

Rep. Hood says some Republicans have already signed on to a few bills.

“And I think with some more education and some tough discussions where we negotiate, I think we can come up with something better than nothing, which is what we have right now,” she says.

Last week, Governor Gretchen Whitmer also announced a budget proposal that includes a new $10 million Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund for low interest loans to help pay for lead remediation.

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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