Lead poisoning

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio



It has been a year now since Michigan and the world learned that the lead levels of children living in areas of Flint has doubled, even tripled.

It was September 2015 when pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha braved the scorn of certain state employees to present her stunning research findings that proved that elevated lead levels in Flint children correlated to the the switch to Flint River water.


As we know by now, the dismissive state officials were wrong, and Hanna-Attisha was right.


It happens every summer.  The rate of young children showing elevated blood lead levels goes up.  

That's in large part because kids spend more time in their houses, rather than at preschool and kindergarten.  They also spend more time outdoors where they can be exposed to sources of lead such as paint dust and soil.

But this year, in some cities and counties in Michigan, the spike was greater than usual.

Drinking water fountain.
Gabrielle Emanuel / Michigan Radio

Elevated levels of lead and copper have been found in the water at 17 more schools in the Detroit Public School district. Two schools of the have already announced high levels of the substances.  

Detroit Public Schools began collecting and testing water samples from over 60 schools in the district the week of March 28.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Almost 130 property owners in Traverse City will receive letters warning them that their drinking water flows through a gooseneck, or a short section of lead pipe before it reaches their homes. These goosenecks connect a property's service line to the city's water distribution line.  

The letters from city officials were prompted by state and federal agencies that directed municipal water system officials to reach out and educate residents about lead and copper. The city plans on testing the water in each property with a gooseneck. 

Almost 130 property owners in Traverse City will receive letters warning them that their drinking water flows through a gooseneck, or a short section of lead pipe before it reaches their homes. These goosenecks connect a property's service line to the city's water distribution line.  

The letters from city officials were prompted by state and federal agencies that directed municipal water system officials to reach out and educate residents about lead and copper service lines. The city plans on testing the water in each property with a gooseneck. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The federal government has approved Michigan’s request to expand Medicaid eligibility in Flint. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says pregnant women and people under 21 in Flint are now eligible for the expanded coverage.

The Snyder administration asked the federal government for the expanded Medicaid coverage, as part of its response to the Flint water crisis. There are concerns about the health effects of exposure to Flint’s lead-tainted drinking water. 

The expansion will affect an estimated 15,000 Flint residents.

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. 

Tap water in a Flint hospital on Oct. 16, 2015.
Joyce Zhu / Flintwaterstudy.org

One of the most critical points in discovering the full extent of Flint’s water crisis was a study of blood-lead levels in Flint children.

That study, by pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, found that after the city switched to the Flint River for its drinking water, lead levels in the blood of Flint’s kids doubled. Since then, Hanna-Attisha has become internationally famous, using the attention to fight for the lead-poisoned children of Flint.

But it’s possible she wouldn't have thought to check those blood-lead levels without the help of an old friend from the ninth grade.

NAACP President Cornell Brooks says "the way you can measure trust is when you have a timeline, a deadline and a price tag."
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The NAACP is giving Gov. Rick Snyder 30 days to come up with a “timeline, deadline and price tag” for fixing Flint’s water crisis.

After that, the national civil right organization is threatening “direct action” protests in Michigan.

National NAACP president Cornell William Brooks laid out a 20-point plan for Flint’s drinking water crisis. The plan includes repealing Michigan’s emergency manager law, free home inspections and a new ‘state of the art water system’ in Flint. 

Brooks says it's time Gov. Rick Snyder delivered a specific plan.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan has had to swing into high gear in the wake of the Flint water crisis.

“We traditionally did about 1.6 million pounds out of the food bank, in January of 2015,” said president Bill Kerr. “This year we did over 3 million pounds.”

Kerr says water accounted for the increase, with about 1.4 million pounds of water distributed at 140 sites last month.

Now, Kerr says the food bank is tweaking its operations again.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There’s a sign on the front door of Blackstone’s Pub and Grill in downtown Flint.  It reads: Water Test: Lead Free.   

Business is down at many Flint restaurants. Their owners blame the city’s drinking water crisis, but there’s a push on now to change people’s minds.

State, county, and local officials held a news conference today to show what’s being done to make sure the water used to prepare food, and the water used for ice is lead free.

Sen. Peters is hoping a bipartisan push will secure federal resources to assist in Michigan's efforts in Flint
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The FBI has now joined the investigation into the contamination of Flint’s drinking water. That’s in addition to the U.S. Prosecutor and State Attorney General Bill Schuette.

The announcement comes in advance of tomorrow’s House committee hearing on the public health disaster.

In the meantime, leaders at local, state and federal levels are trying to piece together money and strategies to get the lead out of the water and to help the children who have been exposed to lead.

flickr user Bart / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The state Senate today unanimously approved $28 million to help Flint with its water crisis. Three million of that has been set aside to “aid with utility/unpaid bills issues.”

Whether or not to pay for water they’re unable to use has been a big question for Flint residents, whose water rates are among the highest in Michigan. Just today residents and activists protested at Flint City Hall, calling for a moratorium on water bills.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Virginia Tech researcher Dr. Marc Edwards is coming back to Flint.

Edwards’ team was the first to discover high levels of lead in Flint’s drinking water last summer. Earlier this month, Edwards announced his team was ending its probe of Flint's lead-tainted water.

Mayor Karen Weaver announced today that Edwards will oversee all water testing by the state and federal governments.

“He is fully independent. He will be reporting to me,” says Weaver.

Weaver adds that Edwards’ work will be paid for with “private donations.”

The lawyer in charge of state Attorney General Bill Schuette’s investigation, Todd Flood.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

After many months of finger-pointing, there’s an effort underway in Michigan to determine just who’s at fault for the city of Flint’s drinking water crisis.

Michigan’s Attorney General has now appointed a special counsel to investigate how the city’s tap water became contaminated with lead.

People in Flint have spent nearly two years drinking bottled water.

For almost as long, there’s been a demand that someone be held accountable for the decisions that left their tap water undrinkable.

Today, Michigan’s Attorney General took a step in that direction.

Gov. Rick Snyder

Republican leaders in the state Senate say a $28 million emergency appropriation for Flint should come with some accountability measures to make sure that money is spent wisely.

The bill flew through the state House with unanimous support the day after Gov. Rick Snyder requested the special funding during his State of the State Address.

The Senate is expected to move swiftly next week to send the money to Snyder’s desk.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

“I just want to say the president has granted our request for an emergency declaration,” Flint Mayor Karen Weaver smiled broadly as she told a crowded news conference at city hall Saturday afternoon.

The declaration will mean federal assistance in getting bottled water and filters to help the city deal with its lead tainted water supply. A switch to the Flint River as the city's drinking water source created toxic levels of lead in the tap water. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There are questions being raised about Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s plans to investigate Flint’s water crisis.

Schuette issued a press release this morning announcing his decision to open an investigation into Flint’s lead-tainted drinking water.

Researchers at Virginia Tech received samples of Flint water (both clear and discolored) from residents. Dr. Edwards and his team there were among the first to call attention to lead contamination in Flint's water.
Flint Water Study / Facebook

The Flint water crisis has taken a new turn, with Governor Snyder's announcement that there's been an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in Flint.

Genesee County had 87 cases of Legionnaires', with ten deaths between June 2014 and November 2015. Prior years only saw between six and 10 cases.

The outbreak started soon after the city switched to water from the Flint River, and ended after it went back to Detroit water.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There are efforts underway to help Flint children exposed to lead in their drinking water.

There’s also an effort to see if those interventions are working.

Children exposed to high levels of lead benefit from better nutrition and early education. A new collaboration between Michigan State University and Hurley Children’s Hospital will try to find the best ways to do that.

Aron Sousa is the interim director of the MSU College of Human Medicine. He says intervention is good, but “the key thing is figuring out if your intervention is working.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan National Guardsmen are in Flint today.

They’re there to pass out bottled water and filters to residents. That’s because for more than a year, the city’s tap water has been unsafe to drink.      

Numerous missteps by government agencies allowed the city’s water to become contaminated with lead, and many residents say they no longer trust the governor to fix the problem.

Tuesday afternoon, about a dozen children were sitting at a table in their school gymnasium piecing together snowflakes in an arts and crafts project.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan State troopers and volunteers are knocking on doors in Flint, handing out bottled water, water filters, and lead testing kits.

The city and state have been offering the water and kits for months. But many people say it’s difficult for them to travel, especially during the winter.

Lt. David Kaiser says the door-to-door outreach is part of a larger effort to help people in Flint get the clean water they need.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A Flint museum is opening a new exhibit later this month that will take a close look at the city’s drinking water crisis.

When Sloan Museum executive director Todd Slisher booked the national traveling exhibit “Water’s Extreme Journey” nearly two years ago, he had no idea of the crisis that would soon grip Flint.

The city’s disastrous switch to the Flint River ended up damaging the city’s water system and led to health concerns.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Officials are now going door to door in Flint handing out water filters.

Genesee County reserve sheriff’s deputies started knocking on doors just after 10 am in a neighborhood on the city’s north side.  If someone answers, deputies  hand out bottled water and filters to homeowners who need them. 

While thousands of water filters have been handed out, many people in Flint are still not using them to filter lead from their drinking water.

Sheriff Robert Pickell says the homes in this neighborhood are some of the oldest in town, with some dating back to 1900. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s contaminated drinking water is now the subject of an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.

Gina Balaya is a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Michigan. She confirmed the investigation today. 

“(The U.S. Attorney’s office) is working closely with the EPA” on the investigation "to address the concerns of Flint residents," says Balaya.  

She declined to comment further on the investigation.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s plan to recover from its drinking water problems goes to the Genesee County commission Monday morning.

The city’s use of the Flint River for its drinking water damaged the city’s pipes, and exposed thousands of people to high levels of lead.  The city switched back to Detroit water last fall.  But city residents are still being told to use water filters.  

Mayor Karen Weaver is asking the county commission to give its ok to Flint’s plan to fix the problem.

What it means when the MDEQ's director resigns

Dec 29, 2015
Tap water in a Flint hospital on Oct. 16, 2015.
Joyce Zhu / Flintwaterstudy.org

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant has resigned because of the agency's role in the Flint water crisis.

But will more state officials resign in the near future and why does all of this matter?

Michigan Radio's Kyle Norris talks with Rick Pluta, the State Capitol Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, about Wyant's resignation.

Listen here:


Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A top researcher says it’s still too soon to drink Flint’s tap water unfiltered.

Virginia Tech University researcher Marc Edwards has been studying Flint’s water problems for months.    Tests conducted by Edwards’ team on water samples from more than 250 Flint homes showed elevated levels of lead.  

Edwards has been in Flint this week testing tap water in ten ‘sentinel’ homes.  He says the tests are tracking what’s happened in the six weeks since Flint switched back to Detroit water, after 18 months of getting tap water from the corrosive Flint River. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s new mayor has laid out her priorities for her first hundred days in office. Not surprisingly, the plan largely reflects the issues she stressed in her campaign.

Karen Weaver defeated incumbent mayor Dayne Walling in last month’s election.   She’s been on the job for nearly a month. 

Even though roughly a quarter of her first hundred days have passed, the mayor says now was a good time to update people on her plans for her first 100 days.

Physicians say button batteries are a potential hazard for small kids.
user Ubcule / wikimedia commons

An annual report from the Public Interest Research Group on potentially hazardous toys highlights some big safety improvements—and new dangers.

PIRG’s annual survey examined hundreds of toys for a number of potential hazards.

None of the toys this year tested positive for lead, but three did test positive for another restricted metal—chromium.

Dr. Jaime Hope, an emergency medicine specialist at Beaumont Hospital, says regulations are making some toy makers more creative.