Several House Democrats were on the stump Tuesday for a recently introduced package of bills that could create new regulations to prevent lead exposure and programs to assist those who have been or could be exposed to lead through paint, soil, drinking water and what one representative called “adulterated cosmetics.”
That includes a proposed excise tax on architectural paint at 25 cents per gallon to be used to pay for lead abatement and reduction in residential dwellings.
Rep. Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids) and several of her colleagues in the House met with reporters on Tuesday to speak about the merits of the nine-bill package. Ms. Hood was joined by bill sponsors Rep. John Cherry (D-Flint), Rep. Sara Anthony (D-Lansing), Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit) and Rep. Lesley Love (D-Detroit).
The bills were partly inspired by the Flint water crisis, as well as serious lead exposure concerns in Detroit and Grand Rapids and other major Michigan cities.
While that state has taken measures to protect drinking water from lead and chemicals like PFAS, Ms. Hood said that “until now, we’ve failed to have a broader conversation about the dangers posed by lead that still persist in other areas of our lives.”
“The paint in our homes, the soil in our neighborhoods and sometimes residues left in our cosmetics still pose a threat to our communities, our children, our older vulnerable populations and more,” Ms. Hood said.
The bills would lower the threshold for lead action levels from 10 micrograms per deciliter to 5 micrograms per deciliter (HB 5359 and HB 5360), require lead poisoning screenings for minors and would place screening results in a minor’s immunization record (HB 5363 and HB 5365).
On HB 5363, Mr. Cherry said mandatory lead screenings would help infants and children who may be exposed sooner than later and can receive care throughout their lifetimes.
Other bills in the package focus on lead hazards in homes. One would require a lead-based paint inspection and abatement for rental units when complaints are received (HB 5362) and would require lead-based paint inspections before the sale or transfer of property intended for occupancy if it was built before 1978 (HB 5361).
Ms. Gay-Dagnogo said the portion of the package regarding inspections would do a great deal of good for residents living in areas with a glut of older housing with possible lead-based paint, including her home city of Detroit, Grand Rapids and Muskegon, to name a few.
“As many as 100,000 housing units in Michigan have been estimated to be a high risk of lead hazards, many of which house occupants living below the poverty line,” Ms. Gay-Dagnogo said. “In fact, a child from a low-income household is four-times more likely to be exposed to lead than the average rate of children living in older homes, meaning our most vulnerable neighbors are the ones left to suffer the most.”
Additionally, HB 5364 would shift the burden of proof of a hazard complaint in rentals from tenants to landlords.
Regarding industry and consumer protection, two bills in the package would provide abatement tax credits to qualified lead professionals (HB 5367) and would levy an excise tax on architectural paint (HB 5367).
Another dubbed the Safe Cosmetics Act (HB 5406) would prohibit the manufacture, sale, distribution and warehousing of “adulterated cosmetics,” or those with unsafe ingredients and additives which may also contain lead.
Manufacturers found in violation of this act would be penalized with a recurring fine of up to $1,000 for manufacturers, Ms. Pohutsky told Gongwer News Service following the media event. The penalty could be prosecuted by local county prosecutors or the Department of Attorney General.
Ms. Pohutsky said she is unaware if the state currently regulates such ingredients in knock-off cosmetics, which may be imported to the U.S. from oversees, but her bill would work to close any loopholes in those regulations at the state level.
“There are a lot of discount websites and apps … where you can get what looks to be brand name or high-end makeup for cheap and the reason it’s cheap is because it contains some contaminants (that) you should not be applying to your body,” she said. “We want to look at issues of lead paint in homes and water, but the cosmetic issue is something we also can correct with this package and I think it’s on us to do that.”