The city of Flint wanted cheaper water, now its children are suffering from massive lead poisoning

The city of Flint, Michigan attempted to cut costs by switching to a cheaper water supply and now the city has issued a state of emergency after many children developed lead poising.

Although the state of emergency was only declared yesterday, the problem has been known publicly since October, with suspicions lingering even longer.

Flint, which has been in economic turmoil since its auto industry evaporated, tried to save money by switching its main water source from Detroit to the local Flint River in April 2014. Almost immediately, residents began to complain that the water smelled and tasted bad. Other citizens complained that they experienced rashes and hair loss, among other health issues. A nearby auto plant refused to use the water after it caused damage to car parts.

Yet the city did nothing. Officials claimed that the water’s smell and taste did not indicate any problems, and suggested that citizens boil their water to kill bacteria. The city claimed that Federal tests proved that the water was safe.

Flint continued to deny the problem, even in the face of evidence. In June, the mother of a child who developed lead poisoning from swimming in Flint water received test results from a city official that proved the presence of lead.  Flint claimed that the reports were obtained from a “rouge employee” and were inaccurate and that the child developed lead poisoning from the plumbing system.

Finally, the problem couldn’t be ignored any longer after Virginia Tech researchers found that several areas in Flint had “extremely high” levels of lead in the water, while 40 percent of the tested homes had elevated levels.

The situation has only gotten worse over time. This summer, Flint doctors reported that 2.5 percent of children under 5 in the most affected area of the city had elevated lead levels, with that figure now at 6.3 percent. The overall number of children with elevated lead in their blood jumped from 2.1 percent to 4 percent.

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Volunteers load water into residents’ cars during a bottled water giveaway in Flint (The Detroit News)

“After the fact, knowing I was giving this to my kids makes me sick, because we should be able to trust the fact that we’re paying for this service, and we should be able to trust the fact that it’s not going to harm our kids,” said Lee Ann Walters, a mother and activist.

Lead poisoning is a serious ailment that primarily effects children under 5. It can hurt the growth of the brain, leading to lower IQs, stunted development, and long-term behavioral issues.

In a press release, Dan Wyant, Flint’s Director of Environmental Quality, admitted the city’s mistake, and explained that it went unnoticed because the testing and purification process was flawed.

Featured image via Twitter

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