Kent County Lead Task Force Hears from Leading Specialists


Four experts in the area of lead poisoning provided detailed presentations to the Kent County Lead Task Force on Wednesday, February 15, 2017. Board Chair Jim Saalfeld formed the Lead Task Force in September 2016 to investigate the issue and seek solutions to lead poisoning in children.

Speakers included Dr. William Bush, MD - Pediatrician-in-Chief, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital; Dr. Bryan Judge, MD - Emergency Medicine/Toxicology, Spectrum Health; Gustavo Rotondaro and Zachary Weber, Métrica, LLC (on County lead poisoning trends and related housing data); and Dr. RoseAnn Miller, MS, PhD, Epidemiologist, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.

“We know that it (lead) affects the brain in ways of development,” Dr. Bush told the Task Force. “Kids that are impacted with lead exposure will have developmental issues, they may have ADHD and the American Academy of Pediatrics feels that one in five patients that has ADD is likely related to lead exposure.” The complete meeting can be seen at

One zip code in Grand Rapids led the state for the highest number of lead-poisoned children in 2015 according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services: 49507 (south of Franklin, east of US-131, north of 28th Street). Four out of five homes in Grand Rapids, and nearly three out of five homes in Kent County, were built before 1978, the year lead was banned from paint.

Lead poisoning can cause permanent, irreversible damage to many organs, including the heart, brain, and liver. It’s also linked to lower IQs, hyperactivity, and aggressive behavior. The CDC estimates that nearly half a million children in the US have elevated blood lead levels (a blood lead level of 5 micrograms per deciliter or higher).

The Lead Task Force, chaired by Commissioner Emily Brieve and Vice-Chair Senita Lenear (Commissioner, City of Grand Rapids) includes more than a dozen community leaders, as well as health and housing specialists. Board Chair Jim Saalfeld asked them to (i) identify the contributing environmental factors of lead-based exposure and illness in Kent County; (ii) investigate possible interventions (actions, policies, and programs designed to reduce lead-based exposure and illness); and (iii) make a formal report and recommendations to the community. The Lead Task Force hopes to have a report complete by the end of 2017. 

This article reprinted with permission from the Kent County Report, the county's monthly newsletter.  Healthy Homes Coalition Executive Director Paul Haan serves on the task force.