State Senator to
Unveil Lead-Testing Plan
by Emilia Askari, Detriot Free
Press, February 17, 2003
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Every Michigan child who lives in or spends substantial time
in a house built before 1978 would be tested for lead
poisoning under legislation state Sen. Hansen Clarke,
D-Detroit, plans to introduce within the next few weeks.
Clarke said he will announce details of his plan today at a
rally organized by environmental and community activists
concerned about lead poisoning.
A lead-testing bill is the first in a 10-point list of demands
activists are making of local and state officials to reduce
lead poisoning. Others include enacting local ordinances
requiring lead testing of all rental housing, and posting
instructions on how to treat lead-contaminated surfaces at
paint and hardware stores.
"We will serve as citizen watchdogs to see that these
proposals are enacted," said Rhonda Anderson of the Detroit
Environmental Justice Community Committee of Sierra Club, the
rally's chief organizer.
Lead poisoning can lead to brain damage that gives children
attention disorders, reduces their ability to learn and can
make them prone to violent behavior.
Carolyn Truitt, a legislative aide to Clarke, is all too
familiar with those symptoms. Her son Jason, 14, had a
blood-lead level of 75 micrograms per deciliter when he was 2.
The federal government considers a child lead poisoned when
the blood-lead level reaches 10 micrograms per deciliter.
It took five years of painful shots to bring Jason's
blood-lead level down below 10. But the damage was done, his
mother said she believes.
"He has moments when he cannot control his temper," Truitt
said Wednesday. "If someone says something he doesn't like,
he'll punch a wall. He'll cuss. It's sad."
Currently, all Michigan children on Medicaid and all children
in Detroit are supposed to be tested for lead poisoning by
their physicians -- but too often this does not occur. A test
costs about $11, Clarke said, and often is the only way to
confirm whether a child has a dangerously high lead level.
Today's rally is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. in front of an
abandoned Continental Aluminum factory on Algonquin between
Jefferson and Kercheval in Detroit. The third in a City of
Detroit series of meetings to educate parents and others about
lead poisoning and provide free lead testing for children is
planned for 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at St. Christopher Church, 7800
Contact EMILIA ASKARI at 313-223-4461 or
Staff writer Wendy Wendland-Bowyer
contributed to this report.