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Lead Poisoning And The Flint Water Crisis

The Flint water crisis is an ongoing drinking water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan. In an effort to save money, the City of Flint switched its water supply from the City of Detroit to the Flint River, a river that is notorious for being filthy. After the change in water source, the city’s drinking water has had a series of issues including the culminated of lead within the water. In fact, the lead levels in the drinking water have caused the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to legally call it “toxic waste”.

Sadly, the toxic lead in the water had not been noticed until 18 months after the switch in water source. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a local physician, began doing her own independent research with the help of Marc Edwards, an expert in water quality at Virginia Tech, after she noticed an increase in sick children suffering from rashes and hair loss.

Lead Poisoning

In order to fully understand the situation, there is a few things you should know about lead poisoning. Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in the body while typically takes months or years to occur. There is no amount of lead that is safe to have in the body and even small amounts can cause serious health problems. Children under the age of 6 are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning and can severely affect mental and physical development. If the lead levels are high enough, it can even be fatal.

Here are just a few of the symptoms that occur in children with lead poisoning:

  • Learning difficulties

  • Irritability

  • Developmental delay

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Sluggishness and fatigue

  • Abdominal pain

  • Vomiting

  • Hearing loss

Though children are the most at risk, lead poisoning is highly dangerous for adults too. Adults with lead poisoning are likely to suffer from symptoms such as:

  • Muscle and joint pain

  • Headache

  • Memory loss

  • Pain, numbness or tingling of the extremities

  • High blood pressure

  • Mood disorders

  • Decline in mental functioning

  • Miscarriage or premature birth in pregnant women

There is no cure or reversing the effects of lead poisoning. Those who suffer from it are likely to have life-long physical and mental problems for the rest of their life. This is not the only time lead has been a problem. Typically, the most common sources of lead poisoning come from lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in older buildings. However, other sources include contaminated air, soil, and water such as Flint’s tap water.

Current Lawsuits

Many Michigan and Flint officials are being hit with lawsuits for the crisis plaguing Flint. Not only did they fail to treat the water to prevent pipe corrosion, which lead to the high levels of lead in the water, but it has also been proven that officials like Governor Rick Snyder knew about the contaminated water and publicly lied about its safety.

On November 13, 2015, four families filed a federal class-action lawsuit against Governor Rick Snyder, and thirteen other city and state officials for the toxic water. The complaint goes on to say that officials acted recklessly and negligently, leading to serious injuries from lead poisoning including autoimmune disorders, skin lesions, and “brain fog”.

In a separate class-action lawsuit against Snyder, the State of Michigan, the City of Flint, and several other city and state officials was filed by three Flint residents on January 14, 2016. It is suspected that there are still more lawsuits coming as well and some have even insisted that Snyder be arrested for his mishandling and involvement in the water crisis.