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Flint’s disposable poor children

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN | 3/28/2016, 9:55 a.m.
America’s political blame game continues while children continue to suffer life-impairing harm.

(George Curry Media) – America’s political blame game continues while children continue to suffer life-impairing harm. The nation was riveted this week as Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Environmental Protection Agency Chief Gina McCarthy were grilled over the shameful inaction on the Flint, Michigan, water crisis by members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. There is plenty of blame to go around. But where is the action for the children and families of Flint? Every day we delay the damage to children and their families grows.

While Congressional members were calling for accountability and resignations, water in Flint was being tested – again. Recent testing at one home in Flint found lead poisoning levels of 11,846 parts per billion. When 5,000 parts per billion is considered hazardous waste, why are we wasting time apportioning blame before the problem is fixed and the poor children and families of Flint have fresh, clean water to drink and cook with and bathe in? Tick, tock, tick tock.

During the months following the governor-appointed emergency manager’s April 2014 reckless decision to switch its water supply from Lake Huron and Detroit’s system to the Flint River’s corrosive water as a cost-saving measure – never mind its health and life threatening impact on the children and citizens of Flint – and the delayed decision to tell residents to stop drinking the water in October 2015, the crisis in Flint has too many shameful moments to recount at so many levels.

Authorities disregarded or hid evidence and misled residents who could clearly see, taste and smell the problem for themselves and put the city’s financial concerns ahead of concerns for child and adult life and well-being. The revelation that General Motors stopped using Flint’s water in its manufacturing plant in October 2014 and told the city it was too corrosive for its car parts was a full year before authorities admitted and warned people not to drink, cook with, or bathe in it. Tick, tock, tick tock, tick tock.

The state’s quiet January 2015 late action to provide bottled water just for its Flint employees was 10 months before children and families were warned. The EPA failed to act for months after it knew that lack of corrosion controls in the city’s water supply could put residents at risk of lead poisoning. Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality failed to heed EPA’s private warnings for months that corrosion controls were needed to prevent a risk to public health.

A state-employed nurse reportedly dismissively told a Flint mother whose son was diagnosed with an elevated blood lead level: “It is just a few IQ points. ... It is not the end of the world.” No child in America is disposable. Tick, tock, tick tock, tick tock.

No blood lead level is safe. That’s what the group of doctors led by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha knew when they raised concerns about elevated lead levels they saw in Flint’s children.

Lead exposure, through water, paint, soil or other environmental sources is a threat far beyond Flint. The EPA has called it the most serious environmental health hazard for children. An estimated 535,000 U.S. children between 1 and 5 years old suffer from lead poisoning. An estimated 24 million housing units have deteriorated lead paint and elevated levels of lead-contaminated house dust.