By Tabitha Harris,
Domestic News Writer
Lead poisoning remains a legitimate fear in several towns around the country. Although for many, this phenomenon is out of sight and out of mind, for the inhabitants of Flint, Michigan, it is quite real. Within the past two years, lead poisoning has morphed into a serious issue for Flint, but the reality of deception concerning the danger has many upset.
In Apr. 2014, Flint’s water supply was switched from Lake Huron to the Flint River. The decision came in response to financial trouble within the city. Changing the water supply was seen as a cost-cutting measure as efforts continued to revive the town’s failing economy. Virginia Tech researchers asserted that the water in Flint River was 19 times more corrosive than that of Lake Huron. However, the switch occurred anyway. Flint residents rapidly noticed the unsavory change in their water. The liquid took on a brownish color and smelled and tasted odd. State officials insisted there was no cause for alarm, and Mayor Dayne Walling even drank it on local television in an effort to quell unrest. Nothing was attempted to resolve the issue; in fact, the local government did all they could to make it appear a non-issue. Not until Sept. of 2015 did authorities begin to analyze the situation with a critical eye. In October, they reversed the water supply back to Lake Huron, but the damage had already ensued.
The strange nature of the Flint water was due to the unhealthy amounts of lead with which it was filled. The Mayo Clinic warned that lead poisoning has detrimental physical and mental effects, severely hampering development in those areas. In a Wednesday hearing on Feb. 3, Shannon Moore, a Flint resident, displayed a nasty rash on her arms. It began as a red-looking discoloration and left white spots. Moore adamantly maintained that the rash came from the lead-infested water. Another resident, Jessica Owens, held a baby bottle filled with the brown water and expressed her terror when she stated that her 8-year-old son drank and bathed in the water. Both women, along with others present at the hearing, blamed the Michigan government for the widespread exposure to the lead.
In 2013, Michigan governor, Rick Snyder, appointed Darnell Earley to be the state’s emergency manager. The blame has fallen on both men’s shoulders as both were aware of the serious problem but failed to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety of Flint residents.
The Wednesday hearing was convened in order for policy makers to get to the bottom of the crisis. Multiple lawmakers characterized what had been labelled the “Flint Water Crisis” as a failure of government on local, state, and federal levels. The committee chairman at the hearing, Jason Chaffetz, branded the snafu a federal failure because EPA officials neglected their duty in the face of incessant warnings.
FBI officials have been called in to join the Flint investigation, which includes examinations into the origin of Legionnaire’s disease which has broken out in an unprecedented wave in Flint. The disease is a pneumonia caused by bacteria in the lungs. Inhaling mist or vapor from contaminated water systems generally brings it on. 87 cases of the disease, including 9 deaths, were found in and around Flint, but the public was kept virtually in the dark concerning the numerical increase of the cases. The cover-up was perpetuated by Snyder and Earley, who allege that they were not made aware of the issue until recently.
Although the lead poisoning crisis in Flint is undoubtedly serious, studies show that some towns in Pennsylvania have even higher counts of lead-infested water than Flint, Michigan.
Nearly 10 percent of the 140,000 children tested had 5 or more micrograms per deciliter of lead in their blood, which researches say is “incredibly alarming”. Also, 20 cities reported dangerous levels of lead in the water. The percentage in Flint is only 3.21, which is unhealthy but not nearly as much as that of Pennsylvania.
The reason behind Pennsylvania’s lead exposure stems from deteriorating buildings and peeling paint, unlike Flint’s source, which was due to a change in water supply. Although lead poisoning appears to be an isolated issue due to the recent outbreak in Flint, the findings in Pennsylvania are rather disconcerting.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 9th print edition.
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