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Study: Lead Abatement Could Save Mich. Over $2 Million a Year in Special Ed. Costs

Starting a statewide lead abatement program in Michigan could ultimately save the state millions of dollars that it currently spends to support people who were exposed to lead when they were children, according to a new report from the University of Michigan's Risk Science Center in the School of Public Health and the Michigan Network for Children's Environmental Health 

Most of childhood lead exposure comes from lead-based paint. It would cost the state $600 million to remediate the 100,000 "high-risk" housing units, but the costs would pay for themselves after three years because the state would no longer have to pay for the increases in crime, health care, and special education related to lead exposure, the report said. The remediation would also result in higher earnings for people who would otherwise suffer lead-related IQ loss, the authors claim.

The special education "savings" is estimated at $2.5 million a year, the study said. 

Long-term lead exposure can lead to serious health problems, including physical manifestations such as headaches and stomachaches, and behavioral and emotional disorders. Young children are particularly at risk because their brains and organs are still developing. Because they are crawling and placing objects in their mouths, they're also more likely to be exposed to lead. 

This is not the first time researchers have attempted to connect an educational benefit to lead abatement. Reduction in lead levels was linked to improved test scores in Massachusetts, according to a 2012 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research. And a team of agencies in Detroit has been looking into the effects of lead exposure among the city's children, linking high blood lead levels to lower scores on the Michigan Assessment of Educational Progress. 

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