Researchers from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, as well as teachers and parents, are speaking out about the state’s history of infecting children with lead – long before the Flint water crisis.
In an investigative report from The Detroit News, cities throughout the state such as Grand Rapids, Jackson, Detroit, Saginaw, Muskegon, and Holland have seen higher cases of lead in children as far back as 2013. State-funded health programs have been implemented over the years, but little action or attention was given until Flint’s water crisis gained media attention last month.
In 2013, lead levels sank to 3.9 percent and fell again to 3.5 percent in 2014. But that is still 5,053 children under age 6 who tested positive in 2014. Each had lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter. (Though no amount is considered safe, 5 micrograms is the threshold that experts say constitutes a “much higher” level than most children.)
Flint’s unfolding water crisis once again brought to the fore a danger long known to rob children of cognitive and physiological function and impulse control. High levels of lead found in students in the Detroit Public Schools system have been linked to that city’s notoriously low test scores.
In the 48206 ZIP code on the west side of Detroit, 20.8 percent of the 701 children tested had elevated levels in 2013, and 20.3 percent in 2014, the most recent year tested.
Paul Haan of Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan, a group designed to help ensure wellness in harmful housing conditions, said children are often the victims of cities’ mistakes. More often than not, little is done until the damage is detected in kids.
“The problem is,” Haan said, “we’re still using kids as lead detectors.”
Because of the well-documented dangers of lead, pediatricians are constantly testing children. “And every week there are more kids on” a weekly statewide report on elevated lead levels, Haan added. Parts of Grand Rapids have some of the highest concentrations of children with lead, he said.
As efforts to help the residents of Flint continue, Gov. Rick Snyder said he doesn’t plan to replace the lead pipes in the town anytime soon.
New reports also refute Snyder’s claims regarding when he was aware of the city’s water problem. ThinkProgress reports the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget issued new water coolers to state buildings in Flint due to suspicions about the water supply back in January 2015.
Snyder has so far refused protesters’ demands he step down.
SOURCE: The Detroit News | VIDEO CREDIT: Inform
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