Jan 26 2016

In the Wake of Flint Water Crisis, What Lies Ahead for Children Exposed to Lead?

Feature Stories | Published 26 Jan 2016, 9:15 am | Comments Off on In the Wake of Flint Water Crisis, What Lies Ahead for Children Exposed to Lead? -

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GUEST: Dr. Howard Mielke, research professor at Tulane University working on the state of urban environments. His work on lead emissions exposure has found a strong correlation with violent crime. I spoke with him before the Flint Water Crisis began. It is important to note that in Flint, children have been exposed to lead by ingestion, not respiration.

*NOTE: This is a re-broadcast of an interview that aired in January 2013.

The crisis of poisoned water in Flint, Michigan has been attributed to a cost-cutting measure that went horribly wrong. But newly revealed documents suggest something else entirely was going on. An independent newspaper in Detroit called the Motor City Muckraker, has found that when the appointed emergency manager decided to switch Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) made several offers that would have actually saved the government money in the long run. According to the Muckraker, “Some have suggested that [Gov. Rick] Snyder was motivated by a desire to break up DWSD and ultimately privatize it.”

Meanwhile, Flint residents are up in arms about being required to pay for the poisoned water that has damaged their health. Groups like Food and Water Watch are calling for a moratorium on water bills until the problem has been fully fixed.

But even if Flint’s water pipes are cleaned up and the drinking water eventually deemed safe, what about the long term impacts, particularly to children who have been exposed to lead? Lead exposure is known to cause cerebral damage particularly in the developing brains of young children. It can also affect impulse control and those centers in the brain that control aggression.

Dr. Howard Mielke is a researcher at Tulane University in New Orleans, whose pioneering work on lead emissions exposure has found a strong correlation with violent crime. A 2012 collaborative project examined FBI crime statistics in the cities of Chicago, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, San
Diego, Atlanta, and New Orleans and found that trends in aerial lead emissions correlated strongly with crime statistics in those cities. Dr. Mielke has also conducted similar studies within the city of New Orleans that showed a striking correlation at the level of individual neighborhoods.

[Here is a conversation I had with Dr. Mielke before the Flint Water Crisis happened.]

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