Detroit kids have state’s highest lead poisoning rate

November 14, 2017

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.

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.

Detroit was followed by Jackson County, where 7.6 percent of children tested had high blood lead levels in 2016, and Calhoun and St. Joseph counties, both with a rate of 6.4 percent.

Just 1.8 percent of kids tested positive for lead poisoning in Flint, where millions of dollars in state and federal funding has been spent to mitigate the effects of lead-tainted water caused by the city switching its water source in 2014.