Tuesday, April 03, 2018 by Edsel Cook
If you’re a resident of zip code 49507 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, chances are you’ve been exposed to high – or even dangerous – levels of lead. And unlike the ongoing crisis in Flint, the culprit is the paint on your windows, reported Wood TV.
Lead exposure has plagued Grand Rapids for years. And nowhere is the problem more prevalent than in zip code 49507.
According to a recent report by the Kent County Lead Task Force, the Grand Rapids zip code harbored the highest number of lead poisoning incidents in the state of Michigan during 2015 and 2016.
And things are not getting any better – 2016 and 2017 have witnessed a shocking 40 percent jump in the prevalence of lead-related health problems.
In Flint, leaky old pipes have contaminated local water supplies, which was further compounded by an outbreak of the deadly Legionnaire’s disease. But in Grand Rapids, it’s the widespread use of cheap lead-based paints on windows that threatens lives.
Experts suspect the shortage of affordable housing and the lack of responsible construction practices are contributing to the skyrocketing risk of lead poisoning in zip code 49507 and elsewhere in Grand Rapids.
“From 2015 to ’16, testing did go up slightly, but the percentage of kids with high tests still continue to climb,” warned Paul Haan of the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan, who believes it’s high time to find out the exact reason for the high incidence rate. (Related: Toxic pollutants in Michigan driving people out of their homes.)
In the meantime, Haan advised Grand Rapids residents to take steps in protecting their loved ones by refurbishing or removing windows with lead-based paints.
“Maintaining those old windows or replacing them if they’ve outlived their lifespan is one sure fire way to clean up a lot of lead,” he suggested.
One victim of lead exposure who earned her happy ending is Larissa Adams. A resident of Grand Rapids, she was only a year old when a blood test detected high levels of lead in her young body.
“I still didn’t know enough about it until all these years later and I’m thinking to myself she might not have not risen to her full potential if this hadn’t been taken care of,” remembered Larissa’s mother Lyree Adams.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that lead is especially dangerous to children because their developing bodies absorb much greater amounts of it than adults do. Lead poisoning is known to cause behavioral and developmental disorders, comas, convulsions, and even death.
In the case of the toddling Larissa, the old window was filling the air with lead-contaminated dust.
“The dust from the windows, lifting and closing the windows, was creating a dust and she was crawling at the time, putting her hands in her mouth,” Adams explained.
The Adams family hurriedly replaced the old windows of their apartment. The renovation worked; 11 years later, the healthy Larissa is completely free from lead.
Kent County Commissioner Carol Hennessy reassured residents of Grand Rapids that community leaders are aware and on top of the situation.
“It’s going to be very, very broad based in terms of education, and then we will be working on health policy to get more doctors to actually test the blood levels of children,” she promised.
The Kent County Lead Task Force has already updated the Commission with their latest findings. Their recommendations will factor into a plan to reduce lead exposure in Grand Rapids and the rest of the county.
Find out if you and your family are at risk from lead and other heavy metals. Visit HeavyMetals.news.