A major challenge facing the Flint community in years to come will be identifying which children are at the highest risk of contamination-related problems and determining all future evidence of injury. This will be critical because, even after lead exposure stops, the effects could last for years—or can even become permanent.
Making future treatment additionally challenging, no drugs are available to reverse the developmental damage that can be caused by lead ingestion. However, because blood tests can reveal levels of lead within a person’s system, the tracking of this byproduct is possible.
“Distributing bottled water and point-of-use filters that require regular replacement are only short-term interventions. The solution requires financial investment in comprehensive and effective water treatment and the replacement of obsolete, damaged and toxic infrastructure,” Rubin said. “Nothing short of that—and effective, enforced regulation, monitoring and oversight—will ensure that children are being protected from exposure to lead and/or hundreds of other harmful contaminants in municipal water systems.”
Steps Being Taken
Trying to get her city back on the right foot after dozens of lead-positive blood tests, the mayor of Flint, Karen Weaver, said during a December 2015 press conference that she is seeking support from the federal government to deal with the “irreversible” effects of lead exposure on the city’s children. She said she believes that these health consequences will lead to an enhanced need for special education and mental health services, as well as developments in the juvenile justice system.
The Flint physician who first raised red flags about the elevated lead levels in children, Mona Hanna-Attisha, director of Hurley’s pediatric residency program and an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Human Development at Michigan State University, has been selected to head a collaboration between Hurley Medical Center, Michigan State University and other community organizations. This collaboration intends to fight to combat lead exposure among children and residents who were exposed to harm after the disastrous city water switch, according to Michigan Live.4
Additional external assistance is also being offered to the city from companies like AQUAhydrate, a bottled water company owned in part by Mark Wahlberg and Sean “Diddy” Combs. AQUAhydrate has stated that it will send 5,000 cases of water to Flint.
Ultimately, in the midst of this crisis, the general public, government and health officials must continue to work to find effective ways to treat the people who have consumed the contaminated water.
- Flint Water Study. Pediatric Lead Exposure Presentation from Hurley Medical Center doctors concerning Flint MI.
- World Health Organization. Lead Poisoning and Health.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health Problems Caused by Lead.
- Michigan Live. Flint doctor will head team to fight health problems from Flint water crisis.