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Making Detroit Lead Safe

The number of children with elevated blood levels (EBLLs) in Detroit has decreased by about half since 2009. This decline is likely due to home abatement among affected children, outreach and education services for children and families affected by lead, and the removal of blighted homes through demolition.

However, lead still remains a challenge among children younger than six in Detroit. To continue future improvements, in 2016, the Detroit Health Department developed a coalition of city departments and community partners to coordinate childhood lead prevention and removal in the City. This coalition is called Lead Safe Detroit. Working together, the Lead Safe Detroit Coalition provides health services and lead education, removes hazardous lead sources in homes, conducts school and home water testing, improves compliance of rental owners and strengthens environmental standards for lead.

Members of the coalition include: the Detroit Health Department (DHD), Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA), Detroit Building Authority (DBA), Buildings Safety and Engineering Department (BSEED), Housing and Revitalization Department (HRD), Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD), Detroit Public Schools (DPS), Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), Detroit Housing Commission (DHC), ClearCorps Detroit, and Wayne State University’s Green and Healthy Homes Initiative. 

What City Departments Are Doing to Drive Down Lead

Tougher Rental Ordinance

Due to the older housing stock in the city of Detroit, many homes have lead paint. With more than 50% of Detroiters being renters, the city earlier this month approved a long-sought tougher ordinance regarding rental units. This new ordinance creates a framework that will allow for stronger enforcement of lead requirements, including a newly required lead inspection for every home. Under the new ordinance, landlords that do not have a certificate of compliance (unaddressed lead issues are one reason to withhold a CofC) cannot legally collect rent from their tenants until the issues are addressed and a CofC is issued. Read the new rental ordinance here

Lead Education and Testing Through The Detroit Health Department


Lead Pilot Prevention

The Detroit Health Department is visiting Detroit neighborhoods to talk to you and your family about things you can do to prevent lead exposure in your home. If you live in 48202, 48204, 48206, 48213, and 48214, the Detroit Health Department team will offer you and your family FREE:

  • Lead check swabs to test your home for lead paint
  • Visual assessments for peeling and chipping paint        
  • Blood lead tests for pregnant women and kids 6 and under
  • Cleaning demonstrations to remove lead dust and paint chips the right way
  • Referrals for additional health and environmental abatement services


If you would like to schedule a visit before we are in your neighborhood call (313) 878-2029.


Testing and Education

The Detroit Health Department offers lead capillary testing (finger prick) to pregnant women and kids 6 and under. Walk-ins are welcome at our Immunization and Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) clinics located at the Samaritan Center (5555 Conner Street, Detroit MI 48213).  

For additional questions regarding lead testing at these clinics call:

  • Immunization Clinic – (313) 410-8142
  • WIC Clinic – (313) 876-0933

If you are pregnant and have questions about resources and services call 961-BABY.

Partnership with Head Starts

The Detroit Health Department also delivers age-appropriate lead education and testing for children at 36 Detroit Head Start centers. For additional information about these services call (313) 876-4565.


Case Management

The State of Michigan funds the Detroit Health Department Lead Poisoning Prevention program to send out lead advocates and nurses to visit homes with kids age 6 and under affected by lead throughout the City of Detroit. At these home visits, staff assess the environment for lead hazards, educate families on how to prevent future lead exposure, and refer families to abatement programs. To talk to trained staff or request a home visit contact the DHD Lead Prevention and Intervention program at (313) 876-0133.


Home Investigations and Abatements

The Housing and Revitalization Department (HRD) provides investigations for homes of children under 6 with elevated blood lead levels and lead abatement for homes with lead. To learn more about HRD’s lead abatement program call: (313) 224-6380.


Rental Inspections and Landlord Outreach

The Buildings Safety Environment and Engineering Department (BSEED) provides lead education to rental owners, inspects rental units for lead, and issues violations to non-compliant landlords.  If you are a renter and think your home should be inspected for lead or think your landlord is non-compliant call: (313) 224-2733.

Home Water Testing

In 2016, DWSD conducted EPA-required residential water testing to check for the presence of lead and copper. Although the testing was not required until 2017, the city felt it was important to conduct it earlier. The testing also was more rigorous in two respects: the city tested nearly 50% more homes than required and previously had been texted; and it no longer had residents flush their lines for several minutes before the test to better simulate a real-life experience. The city’s residential water was certified by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) at a level of 4 parts per billion based on the 90th percentile of results, far below the federal action level of 15 PBB. Despite these tougher standards, none of the residences tested showed levels at or above the EPA Action level. Results and more information can be found here:

DWSD will test for lead in the water at no charge at homes where a child has tested positive for elevated blood lead levels, or when DWSD is replacing a lead service line. If a child in a home has an elevated blood lead level, please call the Detroit Health Department at 313-876-0133 for support and to request a test for lead in the water. If DWSD is replacing a lead service line at a home, the owner/occupant will be contacted directly for sampling opportunities.

Residents can also request a test for lead in water at their home by completing a Lead and Copper Sample Request Form. The participating household must collect the tap water sample by adhering to the provided instructions. For any other questions about sampling for lead in drinking water, please call 313-964-9300.

School Water Testing

The Detroit Health Department is working with schools and early childhood facilities across the City to support testing water for elevated lead. This proactive testing helps ensure that Detroit children have a safe and healthy environment at school.  Learn more at http://detroitmi.gov/schoolwater

Strengthening Environmental Controls for Demolitions

Vacant homes in the city pose a threat to the health and safety of Detroiters and the City is committed to ensuring the demolition program is conducted in the safest, healthiest way possible. Detroit Building Authority (DBA) and the Detroit Health Department (DHD) are partnering to strengthen public health protections within the City’s Demolition Program and mitigate potential lead exposures for children. This includes:

  • Demo Texting Service:  By texting an address they care about to 313-254-DEMO (3366), residents will receive a text message listing the addresses of structures within 500 feet that are scheduled for demolition and the approximate date of demolition. The text also includes health tips reminding them to keep windows and doors closed during active demolition and to keep children and pets inside. As part of its ongoing effort to run the nation's largest and safest demolition program, the city of Detroit has launched this new text-based program to let residents know when a building near them is going to be demolished. The new system also will help guide residents living close to planned demolitions know what safety precautions to take to protect against any potentially harmful dust that may become airborne, despite the practice of wetting the house before and during demolition. Note: please use this format: 9385 E Vernor or 2 Woodward.
  • Stronger surveillance and protections:  The Detroit Health Department initiated a study to see if there was any risk associated with demolitions and elevated blood lead levels. Preliminary results suggest 2.4% of elevated blood lead levels in children may be associated with demolitions. The potential association was noted for children living within 400 feet of a demolition site, only for demolitions that occur between May and September. The cause of the association is not clear, and further analysis is being conducted.  However, to mitigate any potential risks and lead exposures, the Health Department commissioned a task force to strengthen public health protections within the City’s Demolition Program, and are implementing immediate protections for children and families. The task force will continue to develop recommendations and seek input from environmental and academic experts. See here for initial task force recommendations and report.
  • Strengthened protocols: The “Detroit demolition protocol” borrows from national best practices, and has been commended by the Environmental Protection Agency as an example for other communities. Houses are sprayed with water before and during demolition to reduce dust. In addition, demolition debris is wetted as it is loaded up and hauled away. DBA and DHD are partnering to further strengthen the protocols and improve contractor compliance.
  • Enhanced notification: Contractors will be providing door hangers to households within 400 feet (or within a radius of 8 houses) of a site two weeks in advance to notify residents of an upcoming demolition. For more information visit: http://www.detroitmi.gov/Detroit-Demolition-Program/Protecting-Our-Neighbors-and-the-Environment or call 1-844-DET-DEMO.
  • Improved compliance: Contractors will be provided with a paper checklist of critical equipment that should be onsite and procedures that should be followed.  Residents can view the checklist at:  http://www.detroitmi.gov/Detroit-Demolition-Program/Protecting-Our-Neighbors-and-the-Environment.  Contractors caught violating Detroit Building Authority requirements are suspended or terminated from Detroit’s demolition program.  Neighbors are encouraged to call 1-844-DET-DEMO to report any problems during or after demolition.

Proximate demolition activity and elevated blood lead in Detroit, 2014 - 2016.

Residential Lead Service Line Replacement Program

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) estimates there are more than 125,000 lead service lines (LSLs). In the City of Detroit, LSLs are most likely to be found in single family homes built before 1950. While recent sampling shows that water in homes that have been tested fall well within the EPA guidelines for the presence of lead, DWSD is working on a  plan to remove and replace lead service lines throughout the city.

What You Can Do

Get Your Child Tested for Lead

All children under the age of 6 and living in older homes should be tested annually for lead. To have your child tested you can:

  • Make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician or health care provider.  Call the toll-free number on the back of your child’s health insurance card.
  • Make an appointment at Children’s Hospital Pediatrics.  Call 313-745-KIDS (5437) or visit www.childrensdmc.org/LeadClinic
  • Make an appointment or walk-in at any of the below Detroit Health Department lead testing clinics.

Samaritan Center Immunizations Clinic
5555 Conner, Detroit MI, 48213

Our clinic is open from:
Monday: 8am – 5pm
Tuesday: 8am – 5pm
Wednesday: 9am – 6pm
Thursday: 8am – 5pm
Friday: 8am – 5pm
Saturday 10am - 4pm

Samaritan Center Women, Infants, & Children (WIC) Clinic

5555 Conner, Detroit MI, 48213
(313) 876-0933

Our clinic is open from:
Monday: 8am - 4:30pm
Tuesday: 8am - 4:30pm
Wednesday: 8:30pm - 5:00pm
Thursday: 8am - 4:30pm
Friday: 8am - 4:30pm

If your child does not have health insurance or if you never selected a health plan, your child may be Medicaid eligible.  Visit www.mibridges.michigan.gov to learn more.


Clean Your Home Frequently

Instructions on removing paint chips and lead dust from your home


Additional Resources

  1. Detroit Health Department – Lead Prevention and Intervention Program: (313) 876-0133; General: (313) 876-4000, http://detroitmi.gov/health
  2. Michigan Bridges, www.mibridges.michigan.gov
  3. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1-800-232-4636, http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/
  4. Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), 1-800-662-9278 http://michigan.gov/lead
  5. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 1-800-426-4791
  6. National Lead Information Center, 1-800-424-LEAD
  7. ClearCorps Detroit (home renovation and abatement assistance), 1-313-924-4000 http://clearcorpsdetroit.org