Lead poisoning can occur in different ways. The most common being inhalation, ingestion, and absorption. After exposure, lead is stored in the bones, organs and blood which directly affects the brain and nervous system, kidneys, the process of making blood cells, and more.
“Children are more susceptible than adults to the health effects of lead exposure because their bodies are still developing.”
In 1978 the United States Federal Government banned the consumer uses of lead-based paint, a ban that some states that had previously set in motion years before as it was noted to be the “no. 1 environmental illness of children… [and] are more susceptible than adults to the health effects of lead exposure because their bodies are still developing.” (Rauner, p.1). Dust that is contaminated with lead is one of the leading causes of lead poisoning as lead-containing paints are still present in millions of homes today. “Lead in household dust results from indoor sources such as deteriorating lead-based paint” (EPA, p.1, 2018).
You can minimize the amount of lead-based paint dust by maintaining painted surfaces like walls and windowsills, and clean frequently.
How was the Flint Water Crisis Possible?
On April 25, 2014 Flint, MI switched their water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River in an effort to save the city money after falling into a $25 million deficit. For over 100 years, the Flint River “served as an unofficial waste disposal site for treated and untreated refuse from the many local industries…and also received raw sewage from the city’s waste treatment plant.” (Denchak, p.1, 2018).
Improper testing and treatment of this extremely polluted river resulted in the public’s concern for their water safety due to foul color, odor and taste of their home water supply. The rancid water, which flowed through the city’s leaded pipes without an added corrosive agent, was causing hair loss, itchy skin, and rashes.
For 18 months, government officials ignored and overlooked the growing number of complaints of the people which ultimately lead to coalitions and a rise from the community. Many took it upon themselves to test their water with the money out of their own pockets due to a severe mistrust for their local government as they have failed to acknowledge the growing issue and supply clean water for the city.
After initial backlash, the city officials finally took matters seriously in 2016 when Flint Pediatrician, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, released the results of blood-lead levels of the children in the area before and after the water supply was switched to the Flint River. The CDC comments that “No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, the ability to pay attention, and academic achievement.” (CDC, p.1, 2019).
In 2016, Residents and coalitions joined forces to sue the City of Flint for failure to secure safe drinking water for its citizens. After almost 2 years of concerns being dismissed, the judge decided that the community has a case and deserves to be heard. With a win for the People, the city of Flint was not only providing distribution centers for bottled water and faucet filters, but providing a delivery service for said water and filters to those who had disabilities or hardships to claim their clean water.
The court ruled that the city switch back to Detroit’s water system and are to replace all of the lead pipes in the city to prevent another wide spread outbreak of lead-poisoning. The water today shows lead levels within the state and federal standards, but with fear installed within the people of the community, the city’s churches and non-profits still hand out water filters to screen for lead. As of Summer of 2018, it was recommended that the community still drink filtered or bottled water since there are still thousands of pipes that need replacing.
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Sources and further readings:
29 Years Ago In Idph History
Bruce, Rauner – http://www.idph.state.il.us/webhistory4.htm,
Protect Your Family from Exposures To Lead
Flint Water Crisis: Everything You Need To Know
Melissa Denchak – https://www.nrdc.org/stories/flint-water-crisis-everything-you-need-know, 2018
Cdc – Lead – Cdc’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program