City of Grand Rapids and Kent County partner to eliminate child lead exposure

Feb 26, 2020

Child playing with car near window with lead paint
Credit Kent County Health Department

Tabitha Williams’ experience with lead poisoning began eight years ago when her five-year-old daughter was admitted to the intensive care unit following some breathing complications. 

“I had lead in my soil, in my home, I was unaware of the issue of lead. I was unaware that lead still even existed as far still being toxic to our children. I thought that was something that was no longer here.   I experienced my child in the ICU because of some of those conditions that I was unaware of my home.”

Although lead poisoning is 100% preventable, the Grand Rapids 49507 zip code has the highest percent of children poisoned by lead than any other Michigan zip code, according to data from the Kent County Health Department. These facts where facts Williams didn’t know when she moved into her home in the 49507 zip code. 

“I felt isolated. I felt a need to help my child and I took action right then and there. I said, ‘How many more parents are out there like me that’s dealing with something like this and they are alone?’, and I started to form group.” 

The group Williams founded is known as Parent for Healthy Homes and today in part thanks to her advocacy, Kent County and the City of Grand Rapids are partnering in a new initiative aimed at ending child lead exposure in Kent County. 

“If you live in a home that’s older than 1978, chances are that you have children that are potentially at risk of being poisoned by lead. So we need an aggressive education process in the county and we are going to continue to work with our partner.”

That’s Chair of the Kent County Board of Commissioners Mandy Bolter who said the county and the city need to do a better job at coordinating resources for families and holding each other accountable. 

Michelle Jokisch Polo, WGVU news.