New Legislation Requires Lead Testing for Young Children
Legislation to require universal lead testing for Michigan children went into effect January 1, 2024. The bipartisan measures require health care providers to test or order a test for children from 1 to 2 years of age or for any child less than 6 years of age who was not previously tested, unless a parent or guardian opts out.
In Washtenaw County, pediatricians, family medicine providers, and others who treat children can provide testing. Washtenaw County Health Department offers free blood lead testing for children up to 6 years old with Medicaid or who are uninsured. Please call 734-544-6700 to schedule an appointment with the Health Department.
“We know that no amount of lead in blood is safe for children,” says Jane Nickert, RN, MSN, MSA, nursing director with Washtenaw County Health Department. “Early diagnosis and intervention are incredibly important, and too few children are tested.”
In Washtenaw County, less than 10% of children under 6 were tested for lead exposure in 2022, and 53 had elevated blood lead levels. Children with lead poisoning usually do not look or act sick, so testing is the only way to identify lead poisoning.
“With so little testing, it’s very difficult to determine how much of a problem exists locally,” continues Nickert. “But we know that young children can be easily poisoned through lead dust when it is present in their home or places where they spend time.”
Prior to the new Michigan legislation, lead testing was recommended according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance: When a child lived or spent time in pre-1978 housing, or if they had a sibling or playmate with lead poisoning. With so few children being tested in Michigan, continued concerns about dust exposure, and increased concerns about the potential for exposure through water or food, the new requirement will provide critical data about lead exposure among Michigan children.
If a Washtenaw child is confirmed to have an elevated blood lead level, the Health Department provides in-home case management, support, and resources at no cost to the individuals.
Last week, Governor Whitmer appointed Nickert to the Michigan Child Lead Exposure Elimination Commission, and she already serves on the Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health.