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New Lead Action Team to coordinate response on lead cases in Grand Rapids, Kent County

workers removing lead paint from exterior of house
Jamie Hooper
Adobe Stock

Grand Rapids and Kent County have formed a new Lead Action Team. The team will help track and respond to cases of elevated lead levels in kids.

About 1 in 16 kids in Grand Rapids had elevated blood lead levels in 2018, according to figures released by the county. That’s down from previous years. And, countywide, the numbers are even lower.

Now, the city and the county will work together to track cases and connect families with resources. The Lead Action Team is co-sponsored by Kent County Board of Commissioners Chair Mandy Bolter and Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss.

One of the goals is to expand home inspections of properties where kids have tested high for lead. The team will primarily focus on lead-based paint.

Bliss says the city could expand inspections beyond those initial properties.

"We are talking about and exploring potentially doing a pilot and really targeting and focusing on one area of the city to do lead testing more proactively," Bliss says.

"[A]t the end of the day, children are still suffering," says Tabitha Williams, founding member of the Grand Rapids group Parents for Healthy Homes.

The announcement of the Lead Action Team came as Grand Rapids city leaders received the recommendations from its Lead Free Kids Advisory Committee.

One recommendation from that committee is for the city is to require lead inspections for all rental homes built before 1978.

Tabitha Williams is a founding member of Parents for Healthy Homes, a citizen group.

“We’re not going to be satisfied as a whole until we see that change in ordinance,” she says. “Put the money where the mouth is … because at the end of the day, children are still suffering.”

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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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