The water crisis in Flint, where drinking water in Flint, Michigan, was contaminated with lead microorganisms and other toxins, has been widely reported in the media. The county's Department of Health declared a local health emergency in January 2015 after Flint officials switched the city's water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River - a move that was supposed to be one of the largest health emergencies in US history. In December 2015, under pressure from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Flint city leaders revoked their decision to hand power to local elected officials, including the decision to switch the city's water source from lakeside sources like Flint Lake and Lake Superior to Flint's River, which is said to have saved $5 million over two years.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder called the incident a level 1 government failure that has resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 people in Flint, Michigan, over the past two years.
Children linked to the Flint drinking water crisis, which found excessive lead levels in children's blood in Flint, Michigan, in the first week of April 2016.
Genesee County now has more than 1,000 confirmed cases of lead poisoning in children, and as of Thursday about half was in Flint, which accounts for less than 25 percent of the county's population. Life expectancy in the Flint zip code is about three and a half years higher than the national average, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The ongoing segregation of races and classes has increasingly isolated the old city of Flint as the center of power, capital, and resources.
The Flint crisis has exposed the city's existing vulnerabilities, but the medical community has not recognized Flint's events as a warning sign of an impending health crisis. That changed when Flint health officials notified residents of elevated lead levels in their drinking water. Few people would have been surprised if Flint had happened in the midst of a major economic crisis, such as the Great Depression or World War II. In fact, Flint was in a state of near bankruptcy when it was hit by the crisis and severe financial distress.
When Hanna-Attisha started to review her patients "medical records, she noticed that the percentage of children with elevated lead levels had increased since the water change. When doctors told her that they had heard about the anti-corrosion effort that the city of Flint was undertaking to prevent lead from aging pipes from entering the water supply, they did not have to be twice reminded of the severity of the potential consequences. So if a patient's blood had high lead levels, we knew we had to inform people that water in Flint was not safe.
After authorities switched the city's water supply from Lake Huron to the dirty Flint River in April 2014 to save money, Hanna-Attisha heard complaints from Flint residents. Within weeks of the release of this information, they switched back to their pre-treated LakeHuron water source, and within a month, authorities dismissed concerns about Flint's drinking water quality and the potential for lead contamination, "she said. The state and federal emergency was later recognized by the US Department of Health and Human Services, many of which had denied it until after the urban water crisis.
Dr. Hanna - Attisha's research was ridiculed by the state of Michigan when a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Environmental Protection accused her of being an "unfortunate researcher" who "splits and rolls the numbers," sparking hysteria, according to the Huffington Post. A 2015 study showed that lead levels in Flint doubled after the city switched its water source from the Detroit River to the Flint River in April 2014. The city had replaced Flint's water sources in parts of 2014 and 2015, and Hanna-Attisha, a Flint pediatrician, knew about it the previous year. Dr. anna Attisha has revealed that the Flint Children's Health and Human Services Department (HHS) and Michigan State Health Department have doubled the number of children with high lead levels in their blood since the Detroit River water was converted to Flint River water in April 2015.
Dr. Hanna - Attisha's work was subsequently heavily criticized in the prestigious medical journals and has since been fired, according to the Huffington Post.
The author is a physician and continues to advise citizens and authorities in Flint with health recommendations and advocacy. As Flint's physician, the Genesee County Medical Society has played a key role in maintaining the connection to the fabric of this endeavor.
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