Poisoned Children in Flint, Michigan

Beyoncé, celebrity singer, recently announced her financial support towards the Flint Child Health and Development Fund, bringing more attention to the the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. The poisonous water issue came to light in fall of 2015, when researchers concluded the tap water residents were drinking was causing elevated lead levels in children’s blood. Since 2013, Flint had changed their water source. Instead of getting the city’s drinking water from Lake Huron, the city treated water from the Flint river. The lead originated from the corrosive treated water as it leached from the pipes and soldering.

State and federal government failed to address the water crisis in time. The Flint population is concerned that the test results of unfiltered tap water remain high. Although residents have received filters to remove that level of lead, officials maintain that children under 6 and pregnant women should only use and drink bottled water.

About 8,000 children under 6 may have been exposed to the poisoned water, which may have caused irreparable damage to their developing brains and nervous systems. The research indicating a link between lead levels and learning disabilities, violent behavior, attention problem and motor coordination is alarming. Young children under 6 are particularly vulnerable since they are still developing.

Many residents and advocates have expressed their anger towards the government, while also bringing up the racial prejudice and the difficult economic background of Flint residents. Would this have happened if the city was primarly composed of middle class white americans? Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said it would cost $1.5 billion to repair the city’s water infrastructure, and too expensive to switch back to Lake Huron water. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder finally declared a state of emergency and summoned the National Guard to distribute clean water.

Legal routes include an investigation to determine whether the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality violated the Safe Drinking Water Act by not treating the Flint Water with an anti-corrosive agent. Additionally, the ACLU intend to sue state and city officials for “fail[ing| to cure their noncompliance with the (Safe Drinking Water Act) within 60 days.” There could even be criminal allegations towards lawmakes for negligence and indifference.

With the state emergency money and some charitable funds, Dr. Hanna-Attisha hopes they can seize this opportunity to create a new public health program with psychiatrists, nutritionists and child development experts. She was at the forefront of documenting the blood lead levels in children and is getting together resources to assist with these children’s learning and medical problems.

Our government will have to provide the adequate care and services to help the children in Flint, but also work to prevent this life altering crisis from happening again.

Camille Van Kote

About Camille Van Kote

Camille Van Kote is a third year student at the University of Houston Law Center. She graduated from Barnard College in 2012. As an undergraduate, she worked as an AmeriCorps member for Jumpstart for Young Children. She was also involved with the Columbia Child Rights Group, where she spearheaded various campus-wide events, including film screenings, conferences and fundraisers, to promote awareness on children’s issues. She interned at Tahirih Justice Center and Kids in Need of Defense, working with courageous women and unaccompanied minors fleeing violence. This past summer, she interned at the Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights, an NGO advocating for sexual and reproductive rights as human rights.

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