“There’s real danger that the injury is going to be permanent and lifelong in them,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan of the impact of the water contamination in Flint, Michigan while speaking to CBS News. Dr. Landrigan is the Dean of Global Health at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He told the publication that prolonged exposure to water with a high concentration of lead could have lasting effects that parents, and the city, need to be worried about.
And yet, we know that an official for the Environment Protection Agency (the EPA) knew that there were issues with Flint’s corrosion controls since early last year and didn’t share that information with the public. And, state health officials claimed the water was just fine until tests done in September by Marc Edwards, a professor at Virginia Tech, found considerably high levels of lead. In that same month, a pediatrician also found that a substantial number of children were coming in with lead poisoning. And then there’s the possible connection of the tainted water, which came about due to the lead from aging pipes, to the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease (a waterborne condition) in some county residents, which killed 10 people. The water supply wasn’t switched back to the Detroit system until October after initially switching to their backup source to save money, Flint River.
“The problem here is, no level of lead is safe,” Landrigan said. “Even low levels of lead — especially if exposure to low levels continues over many months — is going to cause some degree of brain damage to at least some of the children who have been exposed — that’s a big deal.”
Landrigan continued, “These children are going to be injured for life. They’re going to need remedial education, they’re going to need educational enrichment programs.”
And people in the community are already working to ensure that the children of Flint will be provided with such programs and treatment.
Over the weekend, the United Way of Genesee County estimated that between 6,000 and 12,000 kids have been exposed to lead poisoning due to the water contamination. They have since put together a fundraising campaign, hoping to raise upwards of $100 million in 10 to 15 years, to help cover medical treatment.
And the state has been called upon by politicians in Michigan also to commit financially to a long-term plan to help children in a myriad of ways impacted with “cognitive, behavioral and health challenges.”
As stated by Landrigan, children exposed to lead poisoning could face temporary, and in some cases, permanent, developmental setbacks, behavioral problems and have lower IQ numbers.
“They’re kids who are going to be prevented from functioning at their full level.”