When the city of Flint, Michigan switched from the Detroit water system to its own river-drawn source in 2014, officials didn’t foresee the change would lead to a public health emergency threatening the region’s children. Yet, Mayor Karen Weaver declared a state of emergency Monday, three months after a report revealed the number of children with above-average levels of lead in their blood has nearly doubled since the water source changed. Throughout the city, concerned parents are having their children tested for lead poisoning, which causes a wide variety of ailments that don’t become apparent until later in life.

lead, lead poisoning, lead exposure, lead sickness, flint michigan, detroit water supply, flint river polluted, flint river lead, flint mayor karen weaver

Weaver declared Monday that Flint was experiencing “a manmade disaster” and called for assistance. In April 2014, the city of Flint disconnected from Detroit’s water utility and began sourcing water from the nearby Flint River. Almost immediately following the switch, Flint residents complained about the water’s cloudy appearance and foul odor. City and state officials denied problems with the water at first, but the state later notified residents of unlawful levels of trihalomethanes, a chlorine byproduct linked to cancer and other diseases.

Related: Public health emergency declared in Flint, Michigan as lead levels in local water supply spike, poisoning children

The switch to river water was intended to be a temporary plan to supply the city’s water, awaiting the completion of a pipeline to Lake Huron’s Karegnondi Water Authority in 2016. Residents began calling for an emergency reconnection to Detroit’s system, but city and state officials put it off, offering free water filters to avoid the cost of the switch. However, through some swift legislation, the state finally managed to fund the $12 million switch and get Flint residents back on Detroit water on 16 October.

Parents and other residents have filed a federal class action lawsuit against state and city officials, seeking damages for the long-term effects of exposure to toxic levels of lead. Some are fearing the worst, anticipating that lead poisoning in their children could lead to skin lesions, hair loss, chemical-induced hypertension, vision loss, and depression. With Flint back on Detroit water, residents are safe for now, but the true impact of the catastrophe won’t be known for years to come.

Related: Studies show lead poisoning may increase criminal behavior

Via Washington Post

Images via Shutterstock and MLive