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lead exposure

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Virginia Tech researchers say their latest tests of Flint tap water are consistent with state tests showing the city’s water is within federal standards for lead.

Dr. Marc Edward’s team has conducted five rounds of testing over the past two years. The team’s original 2015 test revealed high levels of lead in Flint tap water.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A new report calls for more aggressive action to reduce lead exposure, such as that seen in Flint children during the city’s water crisis.

drinking fountain
jasongillman / pixabay

A teacher is suing Detroit Public Schools for allegedly retaliating against her after she reported unsafe water at her school, John R. King Academy. 

According to the lawsuit, in the spring of 2016, Detroit Public Schools shut down water fountains in more than a dozen schools after high levels of lead or copper – or both – were found in the drinking water. 

John R. King Academy had too much copper. 

water going into cup from faucet
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It happened last December, in the final hours of the last Congress.

After a lot of heavy lifting by Michigan lawmakers on Capitol Hill, a federal aid package for Flint was finally passed.

Today, we've learned 14.4 million of the federal aid dollars from that package will go to Michigan State University to set up a registry of everyone exposed to the lead-tainted water in Flint. 

Children at Cummings Early Education Center play at a water table using bottled water
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Every child who attends the Cummings Early Childhood Center in Flint lives in the city and was exposed to lead as a result of the Flint water crisis. That can have damaging effects on their development and growth. The Cummings daycare and preschool opened late last fall to help mitigate some of those effects on the youngest children. 

New Zealand had some of the highest lead and gasoline levels anywhere in the world, which meant that the small town of about 150,000 people in the South Island that was studied, had higher than expected lead exposure levels.
Ronald Dueñas / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Switching Flint to water from the Flint River had devastating effects for residents, particularly its children. 

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha first sounded that alarm in the summer of 2015. Her tests proved that after Flint switched the source of its drinking water, blood lead levels in Flint kids skyrocketed.

And that was later confirmed by a CDC analysis. It found that children who drank Flint water had a 50% higher risk of dangerously elevated blood lead levels than before the switch.

That analysis couldn't say exactly how many kids were affected, or what their futures hold.

A study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association may hold some answers. Researchers from Duke University studied childhood lead exposure and adult outcomes.

Peeling lead paint.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder will create a commission this week that has the mission of tackling the problem of lead exposure. A top administration official says the governor will also ask the Legislature to pass a law to make the commission permanent until the problem is solved.

 

Maialisa / Pixabay

The U.S. EPA is proposing rules that would require plumbing manufacturers to mark pipes and fittings for drinking water as “lead free.”

Back in the 1980s, Congress banned lead in plumbing pieces, solder and pipes used for drinking water. Now the EPA wants manufacturers to do a better job labeling these “lead free” fixtures so people don’t accidentally mix them up with similar products that don’t have to be lead free.

Until 2014, “lead free” brass fittings could have up to 8% lead.

Zhu “Joyce” Ni, Min Tang, Pan Ji, Mariah Gnegy / Virginia Tech

Researchers from Virginia Tech announced the results of their fourth round of water testing in Flint today.

The tests show that lead levels continue to drop, that water disinfection by-products in the water are normal, and that the drinking water in the city continues to improve.

“We’re now approaching the end of the public health crisis,” said Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech University.

Edwards says even with the improvements, citizens in Flint should still be protecting themselves.

Flint river
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A state lawmaker from Flint says it’s time to toughen the rules on lead in drinking water. State Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, has sponsored a bill to reduce the allowable levels of lead in drinking water.

He wants stricter rules to gradually reduce allowable lead levels with a goal of zero exposure to lead.

      

“We saw what happened” in Flint, Ananich said. “It’s a terrible, terrible tragedy what happened here in Flint, in my hometown, so we obviously should be leading, I think, in making sure it never happens again.”

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

This week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan will announce plans for a new class action lawsuit related to the Flint water crisis.

The ACLU’s new lawsuit will focus on the education rights of Flint area school-age children and what is needed to ensure their right to free and quality education.

A table filled with bottles of Flint water (both clear and brown)
Flint Water Study / Facebook

 This past April Governor Rick Snyder said he wanted the state to enact tougher lead limits for drinking water than the federal limits. He unveiled the plan in the wake of the ongoing Flint water crisis.

The EPA measures lead levels in terms of parts per billion, and the current "federal action level" for lead in drinking water is 15 ppb. Snyder said he wanted to lower Michigan's standard to 10ppb, making it the toughest standard in the country.

Flickr user David Salafia/Flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The state is advising schools to test their water for lead, even though it’s not required. Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality wants schools to take action, even if lead levels are below the federal standard.

The federal action limit for lead in water is 15 parts per billion. Governor Rick Snyder would like to see Michigan have an even stricter standard; 10 ppb.

Peeling lead paint.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Some Grand Rapids homes are about to get a lot safer.

The city is among 23 state and local agencies across the country to receive Lead Based Paint Hazard Control grants from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Lead paint has been banned from use in housing since 1978, but it's still on the walls and woodwork in many older Michigan homes.

"It was marketed as 'the good paint', so if you cared about your home, then you used it," said Doug Stek, who directs hazard control projects for the City of Grand Rapids.

A lead service line removed from a Flint home. Lead service lines were useful because the metal is flexible and can bend - making installation easier.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

There are several potential sources of lead in your home plumbing that can get into your drinking water.

  • The service line connecting the water main to your house could be made out of lead
  • The solder in your plumbing could have lead in it
  • And older brass faucets and valves can contain lead

So how do you figure out what you have in your house?

This question has been nagging at me for some time. At our house, we drink the water straight from the tap.

Flint river
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Studies suggest even low levels of lead exposure can hurt a fetus’ development in the womb.

And for months now, the state health department has been looking into whether the Flint water crisis caused problems with pregnancies.  

Meanwhile, researchers at Hurley Medical Center are investigating whether the lead in the water increased the number of miscarriages.

But it turns out that trying to track miscarriages is really tough.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, by executive order, has re-established the state's commission focusing on reducing lead poisoning among children.

The previous commission was disbanded in 2006 because the state legislature did not renew the statute that created it.

The commission will have a statewide focus.

Snyder says the new commission will focus on the elimination, rather than prevention, of lead poisoning. 

He says the commission will present its report by November, 2016.

Earlier this year, volunteers from Prince of Peace Missionary Baptist Church in Flint unload fresh produce and boxes of food from a mobile food bank.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A new program is underway to get fresh produce to people affected by Flint’s drinking water crisis.

Foods rich in calcium, vitamin C, and iron can help mitigate the effects of lead exposure. But many Flint residents don’t have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Starting this week, the state and the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan are sending more than 100 truckloads of healthy food to local food pantries that serve parts of Flint that have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables.