All Flint’s children must be treated as exposed to lead – Detroit Free Press
In order to address the public health crisis in Flint, every Flint child under 6 years of age — 8,657 children, based on an analysisÂ of Census dataÂ — should be considered exposed to lead.
The direction came earlierÂ thisÂ week from the doctor who forced the state to acknowledge Flintâs lead problem and the state itself.
The exposure began in April 2014 after the city switched from using Detroitâs water system, which pumps water out of Lake Huron, to its own treatment plant, which drew water from the Flint River.
In recommendations to the state on Monday, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha said all kids under the age of 6 should be treated with some kind of prevention actions.
Eden Wells, the state’s chief medical executive, said MondayÂ that allÂ children who drank the city’s water since April 2014 have been exposed to lead.Â “It is importantÂ when we think about a public health perspective that we consider the whole cohort …Â exposed to the drinking water, especially 6 years and under since April 2014, Â as exposed, regardless of what their blood level is on Jan. 11.”
The state’s most recent report, based on Â tests conducted between October and December 2015, shows thatÂ 43 people â only a small portion of the number exposed â had elevated blood lead levels.Â That’s because these tests measure only the amount of lead in a person’s blood, which decreases after about 30 days,Â according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That means testing done today does not represent past exposure.Â Once lead is present in the bloodstream, it is distributed throughout the body, primarily to bones, teeth and soft tissue.Â Lead accumulates in the body over time.Â Blood-lead testsÂ used toÂ identify recent or ongoing exposure to lead, doÂ not measure the overallÂ lead burden in the body.
There is no safe level of lead in the body,Â but the impacts of lead are considered most severe on the developing brains and nervous systems of children and fetuses. And even theÂ 8,657 Flint children younger than 6 exposed to lead may be a low estimate; It doesn’t include unborn children whose mothers drank tainted water during their pregnancies, or children and pregnant women who reside outside Flint but wereÂ exposed while visiting relatives, childcare centers or hospitals inside city limits.
Editorâs note: This article has been updated to clarify the health experts recommend that all of Flintâs children be treated as though they have been exposed to lead.Â
Source: Environmental Systems Research Institute, 2015 population estimates.