Those who live in Flint, Michigan, are no strangers to the fact that the city’s water supply has it’s struggles. Now, a new study shows evidence that the lead levels in the local water system is at levels that are unsafe for health.
The report, published in the American Journal of Public Health, analyzed blood-lead levels in children who reside in Flint. It ultimately found that the particular areas in Flint that had the highest tap water lead levels also had children with the highest blood-lead levels. The study was conducted by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a director of pediatric residency at Hurley’s Children’s Hospital and assistant professor at Michigan State University, as well as a team of other experts. Dr. Hanna-Attisha had initially raised concerns of the lead levels in the water supply after Flint began using water from the nearby Flint River as their source instead of piping in from Detroit’s water system, in an effort to lower costs. The study gave strong confirmation to her suspicions.
In fact, it is likely that the numbers of children with abnormally high blood-lead levels would have been greater if the screening had been permitted for children under the age of 1. Because screenings are usually done between ages 1 and 2, there is no way to tell how much higher these numbers would have been if infants under age 1 and unborn babies had been tested as well.
There are roughly 99,000 residents in Flint and currently they are all using water from Flint River. Now that the dangers in the water have been exposed, Michigan state declared a state of public health emergency in Flint and nearby Genesee Country as well as approved millions of dollars to take care of the crisis, and residents can expect to be hooked up to a new water system from lake Huron by the end of next year.
Lead is a serious toxin that can result in behavioral disorders, low IQ and developmental delays. However, while there is no safe level of lead, not every exposed child will suffer noticeable results, and it is also possible for good nutrition and good health to help the body excrete the toxins safely. Still, issues from lead poisoning can be difficult to spot. The markers to look out for are anemia, changes in behavior and low academic abilities.
Those who are concerned in Michigan may obtain a free, Medicaid funded blood-lead level testing from their local health department or their pediatrician’s office.