Flint Water Crisis
What Led to the Flint Water Crisis
Most environmental issues that are human made result from actions that put finances ahead of public safety. Flint lost over 20% of its population in five years and was in a serious financial crisis. The population that remained was predominately poor and racial minorities (Flint Water Advisory Task Force, 2016; U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). Consequently, there were fewer residents to share the burden of paying for the water system and the city made difficult decisions about how to address the cost shortfalls (Faust, Abraham, & McElmurry, 2016).
Rick Snyder appointed an emergency manager in 2011 under Michigan’s Emergency Financial Manager Act giving him the authority to control the city’s finances and ultimately decisions that led to the crisis (The Network for Public Health Law, 2016). The Emergency Manager signed a contract with Karengnondi Water Authority pipeline in 2013 to reduce the cost (Flint Water Advisory Task Force, 2016). In April of 2014, the Emergency Manager switched the city’s water to the Flint River despite the risk of improper corrosion control of the water system and the unpreparedness of the Water Treatment Plant to operate at the needed capacity (Flint Water Advisory Task Force, 2016).
Flint residents immediately noticed the changes in water quality in terms of color, taste, and odor (Hanna-Attisha, LaChance, Sadler, & Schnepp, 2016). The presence of E. coli and disinfection byproducts (e.g. total trihalomethanes) were discovered in Flint’s water (The Network for Public Health Law, 2016). The corrosive nature of the untreated water also resulted in lead being leached from the aging water pipes (Flint Water Advisory Task Force, 2016).
Link to Chronic Conditions
Lead exposure affects multiple body systems including the neurological system, brain, liver, kidneys, and bones. Because lead accumulates over time children are the most vulnerable to this neurotoxin. Serious health consequences from lead exposure among children include poor brain development and behavioral changes, decreased IQ, shortened attention span, and increased antisocial behavior (WHO, 2016). Among all age groups, lead exposure can also cause anemia, high blood pressure, kidney and brain disease, muscle weakness, and even death (WHO, 2016).
Diagnosis and Treatment
ACOG – Lead Exposure during Pregnancy
ATSDR – Lead Toxicity: How Should Patients Exposed to Lead be Treated and Managed
CDC – Lead Poisoning Prevention and Treatment Recommendations for Refugee Children
CDC – Preventing Lead Poisoning in Young Children
Links to Ongoing Follow-up
EPA – Flint Drinking Water Response
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services – Childhood Blood Lead Testing and Follow-up Guidelines for Children 6 – 72 Months of Age for Missouri
New York State Department of Health – Guidelines for Follow-up of Children with Elevated Blood Lead Levels for Local Health Department Lead Poisoning Prevention Programs
Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) After the Flint Water Crisis: May 17−19, 2016
Other Links of Interest
CDC – Lead: State Programs Links
Health People 2020 Environmental Health
Prevent Childhood Lead Poisoning
Try out the interactive toolkit. The toolkit can be remixed through thinglink so that it meets your needs. Please make your remix free and available to all. To make it easy for people that want to remix here is the link to the google doc for the Flint toolkit with all the links.
- Flint Water Advisory Task Force. (2016). Flint Water Task Force Final Report. Office of Governor Rick Snyder: Lansing, MI, USA.
- Hanna-Attisha, M., LaChance, J., Sadler, R.C., & Schnepp, A. C. (2016). Elevated Blood Lead Levels in Children Associated with the Flint Drinking Water Crisis: A Spatial Analysis of Risk and Public Health Response. AJPH Research, 106 (2)
- The Network for Public Health Law. (2016, July). FLINT WATER CRISIS (Issue Brief). Ann Arbor, MI.
- U.S. Census Bureau. (2010). Quickfacts: Flint, Michigan. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/IPE120215/2629000,00
- World Health Organization. (2016). Lead poisoning and health.
- Yan, Holly. (2017) Flint water crisis: How years of problems led to lead poisoning. CNN.
By: Roberta Lavin, Lyly Bui, Joanne Langan, and Tener Veenema
For more information contact Roberta Lavin email@example.com
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