Michigan to begin testing children for lead poisoning

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(The Center Square) – Starting Jan. 1, Michigan minors will be screened for lead poisoning unless a parent or guardian objects.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Senate Bill 31, which requires children be tested for lead poisoning at certain ages, the testing be recorded on their certificate of immunization and the Department of Health and Human Services develop rules to implement the bill’s requirements.

The bill allows DHHS to adjust the testing requirements after collecting and reviewing testing and related data for five years.

“We know early childhood exposure to lead has been a major issue in Flint and continues to pose a threat around our state, which is why we need to tackle this problem on multiple fronts, including during regular healthcare checkups,” bill sponsor Sen. John Cherry, D-Flint, said in a statement. “By making sure physicians are catching lead exposure in children as early as possible, parents can be sure they are taking the steps needed to help their child live a healthy and happy life, preventing further harm as much as possible.”

SB 31 amends state law to ensure:

Universal lead testing at 12 and 24 months and, if no test is on record for those ages, then between 24 and 72 months;Universal testing of 4-year-olds that live within a geographic region that poses a higher risk of lead poisoning;Universal testing if a child lives in a home that was built before 1978, or one where other children have been diagnosed with lead poisoning; andA requirement minors must be tested regularly if a physician determines they are at risk of childhood lead poisoning based on the factors above.

Beginning Jan. 1, a physician treating a minor patient must test the child for lead poisoning. This bill requires lead testing regardless of the type of insurance a patient has.

The bill follows lead poisoning through lead service water lines in Flint, with a population of 80,000, and Benton Harbor, a population of 9,000.

For three years, Benton Harbor residents drank from a water supply with lead levels exceeding state and federal action standards for the majority Black Southwest Michigan community.

Michigan requires lead testing for Medicaid patients but many offices don’t offer a cost-free lead test for children.

The Cleveland Clinic says lead poisoning in children can damage the nervous system, the brain, and organs. Bill testimony said Michigan ranked third highest in the nation for elevated blood lead levels in children in 2021.

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