photo collage

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

Home Visits and Referrals

The Detroit Health Department sends out lead advocates and nurses to visit homes with children under the age of 6 affected by lead.  At these home visits, staff educate families on how to prevent future lead exposure, identify lead exposures, 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

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department publishes a Water Quality Report every year. The Report is mailed to each household in the City of Detroit.

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 your 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 your home you will be contacted directly for sampling opportunities.

You can also request a test for lead in water at your 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:

  • 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 at one of the below Detroit Health Department lead screening clinics.

Samaritan Center
5555 Conner, Detroit MI, 48213

Family Place
8726 Woodward, Detroit MI 38202

Both clinics are open from:
Monday: 8am – 5pm
Tuesday: 8am – 5pm
Wednesday: 9am – 6pm
Thursday: 8am – 5pm
Friday: 8am – 5pm

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.


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