Healthy Homes to Provide Water Filters to Empower Families


The Healthy Homes Coalition is committed to reducing home environmental hazards in its many forms. One of the pillars of Healthy Homes Coalition’s outreach is to decrease lead exposure and poisoning in children. Lead poisoning can slow down growth and development, cause hearing and speech difficulties, lower IQ, cause reduction of lifetime earnings and even cause higher rates of incarceration. Most lead poisoning in Kent County results from lead paint hazards, so preventing lead poisoning requires removing those risks.

Babies and toddlers are highly exposed to lead because they ingest the lead-contaminated dust and soil; they explore their world by placing their hands, toys, and other objects in their mouths.

Many Americans were shocked to learn of the Flint water crisis, a man-made public health crisis, beginning April 2014, involving the municipal water supply system of Flint, Michigan. Tens of thousands of Flint residents were exposed to dangerous levels of lead in their tap water. With the heartbreaking realities of Flint’s crumbling infrastructure, the conversation about lead opened in the public once again. While Flint got attention in the media, one zip code in Grand Rapids silently led the state for the highest number of lead-poisoned children: 49507. In 2014, Flint had 122 children lead poisoned while 49507 had 145 children lead poisoned. In 2015, 3.3% of children tested in Flint had lead poisoning, while 14% of children in 49507 had lead poisoning (according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.)

The only positive thing that came about from the Flint water crisis is that it began more conversations about lead and people started to become more aware of the issue. However, it caused a lot of misinformation, causing people to think the primary source, or only source, of lead was in the water. A recent study by the Kent County Health Department shows that nearly 28% of residents believe the leading cause of childhood lead poisoning is the drinking water. In fact, 90% of lead poisoning cases in Kent County are caused by lead-based paint that deteriorates into dust that is inhaled or ingested.  

In west Michigan, lead in drinking water is rarely identified as the primary route of exposure for children with elevated blood lead levels. While lead exposure through drinking water is possible, EPA-mandated testing results for west Michigan communities consistently report that the lead content in municipal water supplies is below EPA guidelines. In Grand Rapids, the most recent testing results available (2018) report lead levels as safe in Grand Rapids' water.

While this is good news, water testing can only provide lead content at one moment in time. Water testing cannot guarantee that your drinking water is safe 100% of the time. There are also concerns of other pollutants, such as PFAS in the water. In order to assure safe drinking water, use an NSF-approved water filter or refer to this Filter Guide by the Environmental Working Group. Healthy Homes is also able to provide filters and reusable water bottles to folks who qualify.

Our goal is to create a space where education concerning lead prevention is no longer needed. We aim to ensure long-term policies are intact to reduce disparities and eliminate harmful hazards so that children have the best opportunity to grow in a home safe and healthy.

You can also do your part by sharing the Healthy Homes Coalition home hazards screening tool to families with children 5 and under (link below) and talking about the threats of lead poisoning and water pollutants.

Home Hazard Screening Tool Request Form: