GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Health officials launched a pilot program Wednesday as the state and county continue to combat lead exposure.
In the Get Ahead of Lead program, Kent County homes that have lead plumbing, a lead service line or older faucets can receive a lead-reducing drinking water filter. While old lead paint is largely to blame for lead poisoning, officials said old pipes and service lines may also contribute to the issue.
Nearly 18,000 homes qualify for the filter. To be eligible, households must have a kid under the age of 18 or a pregnant woman living there, as well as have a household member who is enrolled in WIC or Medicaid. Additionally, the households must show they cannot afford the cost of a filter.
“The impact of lead exposure is serious and long-lasting,” said Adam London, administrative health officer for the Kent County Health Department. “Lead has no purpose in the human body. It doesn’t do anything beneficial.”
A 2018 Kent County Health Department study of blood lead levels found children ages 1 to 2 had the highest elevated blood lead levels.
“I also want to reassure residents that our municipal water systems throughout Kent County are tested regularly and they meet all state and federal water guidelines,” London said. “So this is not an issue with the water.”
Older homes with old faucets, pipes and water service lines are at the most risk.
“One person who’s been poisoned is one person too many,” said Milinda Ysasi, Second Ward commissioner.
Ysasi also said the city has allocated $500,000 to the Third Ward to reduce the risk of lead in the water system.
“We know that people are living within different incomes in our city and we know the statistics about the Third Ward,” Ysasi said. “It’s been the least invested in, both publicly and privately.”