“The City of Flint has experienced a Manmade disaster,” said the city’s mayor Monday evening, as she declared a state of emergency over evidently staggering levels of lead in the city’s tap water. Mayor Karen M. Weaver has requested federal assistance to deal with the fallout from over a year’s worth of tainted water delivered to Flint residents and, allegedly, falsely declared safe by government officials.
In September, news broke that lead contamination was on the rise in Flint. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of the Hurley Medical Center concluded that since the water supply switched from the Detroit system to Flint River in April 2014, the number of infants and children with elevated levels of lead in their blood had doubled, from 2.1% to 4%. While the rise seems small, it is statistically significant. Even so, Attisha warned: “My research shows that lead levels have gone up. I cannot say it’s from the water. But that’s, you know, the thing that has happened.“
The World Health Organization says “lead affects children’s brain development resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioral changes such as shortening of attention span and increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational attainment. Lead exposure also causes anemia, hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity and toxicity to the reproductive organs. The neurological and behavioral effects of lead are believed to be irreversible.”
The high levels of lead have been attributed to old pipes and plumbing, which researchers say rubs off more into Flint River water than it does other sources. Because the water itself is more corrosive than other supplies, it erodes the pipes it flows through, picking up lead along the way.