Lyke Thompson discusses Detroit's child lead poisoning problem
While the state’s worst child lead poisoning problem deepened in Detroit, the city’s rental inspectors focused ticketing of landlords for lead paint violations primarily in just two neighborhoods, virtually ignoring other areas where children were getting sick at much higher rates. That disparity means rental homes in Detroit’s lead hot spots — ZIP codes where kids are most frequently testing positive for high levels of the dangerous metal — received scant attention from inspectors that experts say are best positioned to combat the problem.
The city launched a new effort to register and inspect all rentals, starting with six ZIP codes, on Feb. 1. The effort followed an October 2017 Detroit News report that found many families were being evicted from unregistered and uninspected homes. Often, they had withheld rent to compel landlords to fix dangerous conditions. The city estimates it has registered 90 percent of rentals in the first targeted ZIP code, the east side’s 48215, as of earlier this month. Yet none of the six ZIP codes in which the city is focusing its initial efforts are among the top five for the percentage of kids testing positive for lead in 2016.
“It’s really surprising that they are not focusing on the most challenged areas,” said Lyke Thompson, director of the Center for Urban Studies at Wayne State University and project coordinator of the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative Detroit/Wayne County that tackles lead issues. “It’s so dangerous, it’s poisoning large percentages of children.”