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Here are some of the questions people in Flint are asking about the water crisis

Dec 2, 2015

Our panel (from left) Sen. Jim Ananich (D-Flint, Professor Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Hurley Medical Center, and Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody.
Credit Paula Friedrich / Michigan Radio

Our Issues and Ale discussion about Flint's water crisis was a full house.

Flint residents posed important questions to our panel, which included Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, director of the pediatric residency program at the Hurley Medical Center; Marc Edwards, professor, Virginia Tech University; Michigan Radio's Flint reporter, Steve Carmody; and state Senator Jim Ananich, D-Flint.

There were a number of tough questions about who's to blame and what should have been done, but there were also a lot of everyday questions about using Flint's water today. Here's a rundown of those concerns:

Q: Is Flint's water safe to drink now?

Edwards said recent samples of the water show dramatic drops in lead levels, but some homes are still showing very high levels. He said the water is still not safe to drink, adding that it may still take months to get below the safe federal standard. 

Q: What are the long-term effects of lead?

Q:  Now that you’ve scared me completely, one audience member said, how much water do you have to ingest to have a serious problem, and how much does it affect adults?

The scientists on our panel both emphasized that this isn't a 100% doom and gloom scenario. Hanna-Attisha said that studies about the bad effects of lead are based on giant samples. That means not every child in Flint is going to have a lower IQ in 5 years. 

She also emphasized that there are a number of secondary prevention steps that can be taken now. For example, making sure a child has adequate nutrition is huge. She also called for federal and state support in this endeavor.

"We can’t sit back and see these impacts in 20 years," she said. "We don’t want our Flint kids to be the statistics.”

Edwards added that he's been following up with lead poisoning patients for years. He recently met up with a woman who had been hospitalized with lead poisoning as a child, and just graduated with a PhD.

Q: Can we use Flint water in humidifiers?

Metals are not transmitted through the air, so putting Flint's water into humidifiers is safe, Edwards said. 

Q: Is it okay to bathe in the water?

Hanna-Attisha said bathing is safe, as long as no water is ingested. 

Q: How concerned should residents be  about TTHMs?

Edwards said he wouldn't be as concerned about TTHMs-- the city took steps against that issue pretty quickly, and lead is much more dangerous. 

Q: Are some homes at higher risk than others?

Edwards said everywhere in Flint is high risk, though there are some homes that are at higher risk than others. However, the city is still working on figuring out where those homes are.

Q: It costs $18 to replace a filter, and I have to do that pretty often. How am I supposed to afford that?

Ananich told the audience to call the United Way at 2-1-1 to get assistance for water filters. Q: What about our pets? Hanna-Attisha admitted she was not an expert, but that yes, lead affects animals the same way it affects humans. 

You can listen to full audio from the night here.