Very Scary: Lead Poisoning Rates Higher for Kids in Detroit Than Flint

November 14, 2017, 3:56 PM


This is simply outrageous.

Detroit had Michigan’s highest proportion of children test positive for lead poisoning – 8.8 percent citywide – in 2016, including one Zip Code where 22 percent of kids tested positive, reports Karen Bouffard of The Detroit News:

Data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services show kids are being sickened by lead in counties across the state from Manistee to Hillsdale and St. Clair. Rates continued to decline in Genesee County, where the Flint water crisis put a national spotlight on the problem of lead poisoning.

Experts say a significant increase in Detroit’s childhood lead poisoning rate, from 7.5 percent in 2015, signals a need for programs to get kids tested and mitigate the effects of lead poisoning. High blood lead levels can lead cause developmental problems, behavioral disorders and learning difficulties, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The pattern is clear. We need get these numbers down,” said Lyke Thompson, director of Wayne State University’s Center for Urban Studies.

The city says on its website:

The number of children with elevated blood levels (EBLLs) in Detroit has decreased by about half since 2009. This decline is likely due to home abatement among affected children, outreach and education services for children and families affected by lead, and the removal of blighted homes through demolition.

But Joel Kurth and Mike Wilkinson of Bridge Magazine point out in their story:

Lead levels among Detroit children are rising after decades of decline, and health officials say the city's aggressive housing demolition program is partially to blame.

The city has razed nearly 13,000 homes since Mike Duggan was elected mayor in 2013. Over that time, the percentage of children 6 and younger with elevated lead levels rose from 6.9 percent in 2012 to 8.7 percent in 2016, state records show. Federal guidelines recommend intervention for any children that age with blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter.

Experts and studies warn there are many reasons for the increase, but the Detroit’s Health Department in February found a link between lead poisoning and housing demolitions, which can spread fine lead dust from house paint into the air that gets into the lungs of young children. Elevated lead levels in blood have been associated with a host of health problems from developmental delays and headaches to anemia and behavioral problems.

Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun, director and health officer for the Detroit Health Department, tells Deadline Detroit that most lead problems are the result of old housing stock in the city.

Specifically, unlike Flint, the biggest problem is pealing and chipped lead paint, though some lead can come from lead water service lines.The city’s Department of Water and Sewerage is working to replace them.

Khaldun said the city is aggressively addressing the lead issue for children on multiple fronts by:

  • Requiring rental properties to undergo inspections to make sure the paint is in compliance with health standards.
  • Testing children who benefit from the federally funded program WIC (Women, Infants and Children).
  • Educating doctors in Detroit to properly test for lead paint for children 6 and under.

Additionally, she said the Health Department is expanding its services and working with partners to make sure families with lead issues get proper support, and landlords get the assistance they need to comply. 

Get Your Child Tested 

All children under the age of 6 and living in older homes should be tested annually for lead. To have your child tested: 

  • Make an appointment with your pediatrician or health care provider.  Call the toll-free number on the back of your child’s health insurance card.
  • Make an appointment at Children’s Hospital Pediatrics.  Call 313-745-KIDS (5437) or visit
  • Make an appointment at one of the below Detroit Health Department lead screening clinics.

More info on lead is here.

Read more:  The Detroit News

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Potd_img_8262_379 Abstract painted door on Saint Aubin Street and Gratiot Avenue, near Eastern Market.

By: Michael Lucido