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Lead-Poisoned Kids Cause Flint To Declare State Of Emergency

By Kate Shepherd in News on Dec 15, 2015 9:00PM

There's a terrifying problem facing Flint, Michigan—the town's children have been exposed to so much toxic lead that a state of emergency was declared Monday night.

Since the city switched to using the Flint River as it water source in 2014, "the proportion of infants and children with above-average levels of lead in their blood has nearly doubled," according to the Washington Post.

Now Flint's mayor Karen Weaver has declared a state of emergency, according to Flint's NBC25 News.

It's a manmade disaster that was caused by switching to Flint River water before the Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline was completed, Weaver said.

"So far what we've had is band aid fixes. We have the filter program, we have talked about diets for lead exposure, and don't get me wrong, we want these things to continue. We need all of that but it's not enough," she said at the city council meeting on Monday.

Weaver's calling for the local Genesee County Board of Commissioners to hold a special meeting before the end of the month and for continued help from the Michigan and federal governments.

She's asking for help from the federal government to deal with the "irreversible" effects of lead exposure on the children of Flint.

Lead exposure is a very serious matter for children with dire effects, 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.

As a result of the exposure, there will be a greater need for special education and mental health services in Flint and "an increase in the juvenile justice system", according to a statement from Weaver.

Flint won't receive the help it needs without alerting federal officials via a state of emergency, Weaver told Michigan Live.

It's another chapter in a tragic story for the people of Flint. After receiving complaints about the water following the water source switch, city and state officials initially denied that it was unsafe. Eventually, the state notified the city's residents that the water contained unlawfully high levels of trihalomethanes, a chlorine byproduct linked to cancer and other diseases.

The switch back to Detroit's water system was made on Oct. 16, but it came too late for many parents.

"For more than 18 months, state and local government officials ignored irrefutable evidence that the water pumped from the Flint River exposed [residents] to extreme toxicity," a complaint filed in a class-action federal lawsuit from Flint residents reads. "The deliberately false denials about the safety of the Flint River water was as deadly as it was arrogant."