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Detroit Continues Demolition Program After Lead Risks Revealed

The city of Detroit said it would halt a demolition program after a report revealed the amount of lead released by demolitions into the environment, risking the health of children and other local residents.
October 20, 2020, 6am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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James R. Martin

Kat Stafford and Kristi Tanner provide a bombshell investigative report into the public health outcomes of demolitions in the city of Detroit, finding a trail of broken promises and children at risk from high levels of lead.

Here, Stafford and Tanner summarize the crux of the story:

A 2017 Detroit Health Department task force report concluded there was a potential link between the high number of demolitions occurring in the city during the summer months and elevated blood lead levels of children who live near the demolition sites. The city announced in early 2018 that it would halt nonemergency demolitions in five of the most at-risk ZIP codes — 48202, 48204, 48206, 48213 and 48214 — from May through September.

Except it didn't.

Stafford and Tanner, at the Detroit Free Press, worked with Type Investigations to analyze the nonemergency demolitions approved by the city in the wake of the Detroit Health Department report, finding a large number of approvals. "Work crews in those same neighborhoods continued to raze a total of 219 homes during mid-2018 and in mid-2019. Almost half of them were nonemergency demolitions," according to Stafford and Tanner.

Moreover, the city is "now asking voters to approve a quarter-billion-dollar bond referendum to do even more demolitions." Proposal N for Neighborhoods, also documented in an article by Violet Ikonomova, is on the citywide ballot on November 3.

The article includes a soundbite from U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, who responds to the data reported in the article by calling the demolitions a "grave injustice" for the communities impacted by the environmental risks of demolitions.

Full Story:
Published on Saturday, October 17, 2020 in Detroit Free Press
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