Though the water from faucets looks better, residents in Flint, Michigan are still skeptical that their water is clean and safe. Many people are still buying bottled water and numerous residents refuse to shower or bathe in the city’s water. Can you blame them? More than a year after government officials acknowledged that Flint’s water was contaminated with lead — promised aid has yet to arrive.
Why hasn’t the government helped a city in crisis? Especially knowing the facts:
- Flint’s water still contains unsafe levels of lead – 900 times the EPA limit
- The number of children suffering from lead poisoning has doubled
- Teachers are seeing more and more students unable to retain science and math skills
- School water fountains are still off limits to students
- The replacement of lead pipes is slow – only a handful of pipes are replaced per day
- The amount of stress put on Flint’s children and adults is devastating
- Mental health concerns, physical problems, and financial debt are escalating
- Residents have fallen behind on mortgage payments and medical bills
- Property value in Flint has plummeted with many houses being abandoned
- A large majority of residents want to leave Flint but can’t afford to do so
Flint’s Mayor, Karen Weaver, says, “It’s frustrating to have to remind people that we are taxpayers, we are U.S. citizens, and we deserve clean, affordable drinking water.” In two years she does see some progress, but she also knows that until every lead pipe is replaced in the city the disaster will continue. Daily, she challenges state and federal lawmakers to commit the funds needed to improve the water.
The people in Flint are feeling frustrated, angry, worried, forgotten, ignored, and lost.
CLEARCorps USA (CCUSA) will continue to monitor the water crisis in Flint and provide timely updates on the abatement and remediation of lead. But before lead can be abated throughout the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) goal is to prevent lead exposure to children before they are harmed. According to CDC there are many ways parents can reduce a child’s exposure to lead. The most important is stopping children from coming into contact with lead. Lead hazards in a child’s environment must be identified and controlled or removed safely.
What can be done to prevent exposure to lead?
It’s important to determine the construction year of the house or the dwelling where your child spends a large amount of time (e.g., grandparents or daycare). In homes built before 1978, assume that the paint has lead unless tests show otherwise.
- Talk to your state or local health department about testing paint and dust from your home for lead.
- Make sure your child does not have access to peeling paint or chewable surfaces painted with lead-based paint.
- Children and pregnant women should not be present in housing built before 1978 that is undergoing renovation. They should not participate in activities that disturb old paint or in cleaning up paint debris after work is completed.
- Create barriers between living/play areas and lead sources. Until environmental clean-up is completed, you should clean and isolate all sources of lead. Close and lock doors to keep children away from chipping or peeling paint on walls. You can also apply temporary barriers such as contact paper or duct tape, to cover holes in walls or to block children’s access to other sources of lead.
- Regularly wash children’s hands and toys. Hands and toys can become contaminated from household dust or exterior soil. Both are known lead sources.
- Regularly wet-mop floors and wet-wipe window components. Because household dust is a major source of lead, you should wet-mop floors and wet-wipe horizontal surfaces every 2-3 weeks. Windowsills and wells can contain high levels of leaded dust. They should be kept clean. If feasible, windows should be shut to prevent abrasion of painted surfaces or opened from the top sash.
- Take off shoes when entering the house to prevent bringing lead-contaminated soil in from outside.
- Prevent children from playing in bare soil; if possible, provide them with sandboxes. Plant grass on areas of bare soil or cover the soil with grass seed, mulch, or wood chips, if possible. Until the bare soil is covered, move play areas away from bare soil and away from the sides of the house. If you have a sandbox, cover the box when not in use to prevent cats from using it as a litter box. That will help protect children from exposure to animal waste.
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