As issues with lead poisoning continue to affect Michiganders in places like Benton Harbor, the legislature is working on bills to require lead screenings for school-aged children across the state.
House Bills 4678 and 4679 were heard at the Michigan House Health Policy Committee meeting on May 26th. These bills would require providers to screen minors for lead poisoning through a blood lead test and require that screening to be recorded on a certificate of immunization. The bills would require the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to determine the time intervals in which children are tested and to promulgate these rules to providers and the public.
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Sponsors of the bills—Rep. John Cherry (D-Flint) and Rep. Helena Scott (D-Detroit) respectively—said continuous exposure to lead can damage a child’s growth and development. It can impact their physical health, mental health, economic prospects, and educational attainment.
“Countless Michiganders have been impacted by lead in our pipes,” Scott said. “An important thing to know about lead’s impact on the body is that it is cumulative. The more that children are exposed, the more serious lead’s effects will be.”
Cherry said many Michiganders don’t tend to ask for lead poisoning blood tests until symptoms set in. With this legislation, providers would be required to perform these tests instead of needing special requests from the parents.
In further effort to make sure students get tested, HB 4679 would require the test to be part of the child’s immunizations records. This would give schools the opportunity to require this test for school entry, like many other required vaccinations.
“By tying lead screening to immunization, we can catch the presence of lead early,” Scott said. “If we catch the presence of lead early, we can empower parents to do the right thing and prevent any further exposure.”
Scott said these measures will help reduce racial disparities to care and lead poisoning, reduce health care costs for further interventions relating to lead poisoning down the health care continuum, and improve health outcomes for all Michigan children.
Though the Michigan chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics opposes the bills, many organizations support it including, Michigan Environmental Council, Healthy Homes Coalition of Michigan, Learning Disabilities Association, and the Wayne State University Center for Urban Studies.
The bills await further discussion and a vote in committee.