Unclean and contaminated water sources might seem like a third world problem, but in our very own country a water-related health crisis has been emerging over recent months. An extremely high number of children in Flint, Michigan were diagnosed with lead poisoning and a variety of other health ailments after the water supply was switched from a Detroit water source to Flint River — and the Governor belatedly declared a public health emergency. The water has since been switched back to a less toxic source, but the citizens of Flint are just beginning to deal with the health maladies and fallout from this crisis. Unhappy with the government’s slow-going and timid response and reluctance to accept blame, they have begun looking internally for support, resources, and solutions with a local doctor leading the charge.
Pediatrician and Michigan State University alumni Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha’s lead testing results were the catalyst for getting state officials to admit their fault in the water ordeal. She is spearheading a local initiative comprised of 35 epidemiologists, nutritionists, and educators to help families navigate some of the long and short-term lead-poisoning related health complications including developmental delays, learning difficulties, hearing loss, bone fragility, and high blood pressure. Named the Flint Child Health and Development Fund and involving the local university and children’s hospital, the initiative will help pay for the wide-ranging services that the children, families, and community will need in the wake of this disaster.
To give this devastating story a more personal context, here are the words of one of the residents of Flint, Melissa Mays, who is unable to sell her family’s home due to crashing property values and who pays $200 each month for water that they can only use for bathing, as told to the Detroit Free Press:
“I want to scream and cry for my kids… at this point… the best we have are water filters with no replacement cartridges, and you can go to a gas station and get one gallon of water per day which is nothing for a family of five like mine.”
Mays also laments high family medical bills from issues likely related to the contaminated water and decries the government’s slow, inadequate response to such a long-term, expansive problem. She shares, “My son fell off his bike, and his wrist buckled. My oldest son’s teeth are falling apart. I’m scared that if they go play contact sports, they‘ll be injured… We’re doing proper nutrition, buying detox medication for heavy metals, which insurance doesn’t cover. The medicine covers lead, chromium, aluminum, tin and copper, and they’re all neurotoxins. I just found out I’ve got kidney stones. I’m 37 years old. This is terrifying.”
It’s simply mind-boggling that such a huge health crisis can exist at this time in the United States and receive such little mention or recourse. If you’d like to help the kids of Flint, visit here.
Lead image via MLive.com File