Calvin College

CALVIN - Minds in the Making

Strengthening Liberal Arts Education by Embracing Place and Particularity

Case Study

Get the Lead Out! Retailer Survey


In 2002, the Nursing Department at Calvin College began partnering with the local Get the Lead Out! Collaborative to impact the disproportionately high incidence of childhood lead poisoning in the City of Grand Rapids’ low-income neighborhoods.  Get the Lead Out! is a locally developed campaign that coalesces a variety of partners from various disciplines to holistically address the conditions that cause childhood lead poisoning.  Partners come from health care, housing, early childhood development, government, academia, community-based organizations, and the environmental movement.  The campaign is facilitated by the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan, a non-profit organization.

The involvement of the Calvin College Nursing Department in Get the Lead Out! has been primarily through the community health rotation of the students’ senior year practicum.  Nursing students have been involved in a wide variety of childhood lead poisoning prevention activities, including community awareness, blood lead testing drives, and parent education.

Other departments at Calvin have also been introduced to the work of the Get the Lead Out! through the partnership with the Nursing Department.  Students from both the Sociology and Psychology departments have worked with the campaign to offer lead dust sampling assistance to low-income households—a simple way for homeowners to know the relative risk of the lead levels in their home.  In particular, a Health Psychology class is studying the relationships between lead dust levels, psychological indicators, and the likelihood a family will take preventive action.

In addition, a Social Work class has connected with the Healthy Homes Coalition to promote awareness of radon.  Like lead, radon is a health hazard found in housing for which prevention is the best strategy.  The Social Work class is conducting community education and offering free radon testing for interested homeowners.

This case study will explore a specific course of activities that began in 2005 when Calvin Nursing faculty participated in discussions about household sources of lead poisoning.  One significant source is the lead-based paint dust and residue created when do-it-yourself homeowners and untrained rental maintenance crews use unsafe work practices.  Ensuring that homeowners and maintenance staff use Lead Safe Work Practices (LSWP) is an essential but daunting task.

The role of home remodeling suppliers and retailers was discussed at a Get the Lead Out! Outreach Committee meeting and the group explored the retailer accountability program used by Improving Kids’ Environments in Indianapolis, Indiana (   The group decided to conduct a similar study with some unique differences.  Given the Get the Lead Out! Collaborative’s strategy of engaging a wide variety of stakeholders as partners, the group elected not to “blind shop” the retailers and not to release negative findings about specific businesses.  Securing informed consent at the beginning of the study allowed Calvin, Grand Valley State University, and the Collaborative the opportunity to engage the retailers as enthusiastic partners in their efforts to end childhood lead poisoning.  Obtaining consent and promising anonymity also satisfied Institutional Review Board requirements.


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