Flint Water Crisis – Lead Poisoning of Children

Lead is a poison that affects virtually every system in the body. It is particularly harmful to the developing brain and nervous system of fetuses and young children.

Flint, Michigan is in the midst of a serious public health crisis, with high levels of lead in its water supply. President Obama signed an emergency declaration ordering federal assistance to support state and local response efforts. With the emergency declaration in place, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has now been designated the lead federal agency responsible for coordinating federal government response and recovery efforts. This means that HHS will, in collaboration with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), identify and mobilize the capabilities of the rest of the federal partners. (Source: FEMA.gov and HHS.gov Both outline recovery overview) .

Given the severity of their exposure to lead poisoning, its the devastating effect on every system in their small bodies, and the life-long health consequences the children of Flint Michigan need long-term help from FEMA and HSS which can be achieved by Emergency Support Function #14 – Long-Term Community Recovery Annex . According to the World Health Organization, “lead affects children’s brain development resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioral changes such as shortening of attention span and increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational attainment. Lead exposure also causes anemia, hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity and toxicity to the reproductive organs. The neurological and behavioral effects of lead are believed to be irreversible.”

Please Sign the Petition asking the federal government to increase its emergency response to include ESF #14. 

More information on the Flint Water Crisis, lead poisoning and the impact on children is listed below.

Dr Mona Hanna Attisha

Experts who blew the whistle on lead-contaminated water in Flint, Michigan, and its impact on children said some kids had blood lead levels far higher than those US health officials consider “elevated” – and that the state knew kids were being poisoned.

DR. MONA HANNAATTISHA: (Pediatrician at the Hurley Medical Center) So, in late August, we were hearing reports from the Virginia Tech group that there was lead in the water. And when pediatricians hear about lead anywhere, we freak out. We know lead. Lead, as you said, is a known potent, irreversible neurotoxin. So we wanted to see if that lead in the water was getting into the bodies of children. So that’s when we started doing our research.

And what we found was alarming, but not surprising, based on what we knew about the water. The percentage of children with elevated lead levels tripled in the whole city, and in some neighborhoods—actually, it doubled in the whole city, and in some neighborhoods, it tripled. And it directly correlated with where the water lead levels were the highest. So we shared these results at a press conference, and you don’t usually share research at press conferences. It’s supposed to be shared in published medical journals, which now it is. But we had an ethical, moral, professional responsibility to alert our community about this crisis, this emergency. (Source: DemocracyNow.org)

That is more than seven times higher than the level classified as “elevated” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (5 micrograms). The CDC states there is no safe blood lead level in children.

Range of Effects of Lead

Very severe lead exposure in children (blood lead levels > or = to 380 µg/dL) can cause coma, convulsions, and even death. Lower levels cause adverse effects on the central nervous system, kidney, and hematopoietic system. Blood lead levels as low as 10 µg/dL, which do not cause distinctive symptoms, are associated with decreased intelligence and impaired neurobehavioral development. Many other effects begin at these low blood lead levels, including decreased stature or growth, decreased hearing acuity, and decreased ability to maintain a steady posture. (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Neuropsychological Effects of Lead Poisoning

Lead is a neurotoxic substance that has been shown in numerous research studies to affect brain function and development. Children who have been exposed to elevated levels of lead (>10 ug/dl) are at increased risk for cognitive and behavioral problems during development (CDC, 1991).

Exposure to lead can result in a variety of effects upon neuropsychological functioning including deficits in general intellectual functioning, ability to sustain attention on tasks, organization of thinking and behavior, speech articulation, language comprehension and production, learning and memory efficiency, fine motor skills, high activity level, reduced problem solving flexibility, and poor behavioral self-control.

The outcome is often quite debilitating and include poor academic learning and performance as well as problems with the development of appropriate social relationships. (Source: Mt Washington Pediatric Hospital)

Childhood Lead Poisoning Levels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to the World Health Organization, “lead affects children’s brain development resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioral changes such as shortening of attention span and increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational attainment. Lead exposure also causes anemia, hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity and toxicity to the reproductive organs. The neurological and behavioral effects of lead are believed to be irreversible.”

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