“Drink more water!” It’s a common plea to kids from their parents, but for residents of Flint in Michigan, drinking water is causing more harm than good: the city has recently declared a public health emergency as a result of the dangerously high levels of lead in its water. While the city has struggled with devastating financial decline and a rise in violence over the past several years, it now has an environmental dilemma on its hands: there has been a dramatic increase in the number of local children being diagnosed with lead poisoning as a result of a change in the city’s water source. Ironically, the water prices for Flint City residents are among the highest in the country with water bills averaging about $140 per month per family, leading the local citizens to realize, “We were paying to poison our kids.”
Flint City switched from using a Detroit water source to Flint River in April 2014 as a temporary measure to save costs. Almost immediately, the residents began noticing rashes and hair loss as well as the fact that the water itself was discolored, smelly, and tasted rancid. Tests would later show that the water contained high levels of fecal coliform bacteria and chemical compounds which can affect the liver and kidney. But the most alarming canary in the coal mine was when children began being diagnosed with lead poisoning at increased rates. Concerned local citizens banded together with the help of an environmental expert and professor to test water from their homes. The results were devastating and infuriating: much of the water tested substantially above what the EPA determined is safe, with some samples being labeled as toxic as hazardous waste.
Until recently, the state government stood by its own environmental testing and data (which showed a downward trend of elevated blood levels), but last week the governor conceded the seriousness of the issue and admitted that the lead levels may be increased or could be higher than previously thought. Temporary measures to alleviate the situation include giving water filters to more than 5,000 Flint City residents, although the lead scientist on the water study maintains that switching back to water from Detroit would help improve the water quality within 30 days. Long-term, however, what is needed is a plan to control lead corrosion. The effects of lead exposure can include a variety of health issues, including behavioral and learning disabilities.
via The Guardian
Lead image via Water You Fighting For? Facebook page