Grand Rapids takes on lead poisoning

Jul 8, 2011

Grand Rapids is celebrating the success of a program aimed at preventing lead-poisoning. Michigan Radio’s Lindsey Smith reports the number of cases of lead poisoning in Grand Rapids has fallen 75-percent since the program began.

Lead poisoning poses serious health risks for children under six-years-old. Lead-based paint is a hazard in homes built before 1978. Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell says more than 85-percent of houses in the city were built before then.

“It’s not cancer. It’s not AIDS. It’s an environmental health risk that we know how to solve,” said Heartwell.

Since 2004, the city has managed a program that provides homeowners with low-interest loans and some grants to make their houses lead-free. The number of lead-poisoning cases has gone down 75-percent since the program started.

Katy England’s Victorian-style home on the city’s northwest side was built in 1890. She’s had two kids since she bought the house 9 years ago.

England knew any house built before the late 1970s is likely to have lead-based paint. And she’s had her kids tested before.

But she was surprised when a city inspector said the levels of lead in her home were some of the highest he had measured.

It cost $12,000 to replace the windows, doors, and repaint the entire house inside and out.

“Things are tight. I can’t even imagine that it would’ve happened anytime soon, so this was a lifesaver for u,” said England.

A grant covered half the cost, the other half she’s paying off through an interest-free loan.