The lead water crisis in Flint, Michigan should have been avoided. The tragedy proves that the fears of many Black Americans are well founded. The Tuskegee Experiment1 and now the” Flint Lead Crisis” is seared into the minds of black people. When given the chance to do right for Black Americans, will you be treated poorly? The fact that the government workers were getting bottled water2 in Flint while the residents of Flint didn’t is telling.
Many of us remember when lead paint3 was banned from residential use in 1978. Despite the known dangers of lead, it appears government officials were willing to risk the lives of its citizens. The fact that the population of Flint is over 56% African-American adds to the fears that black lives don’t matter.
Jay Harold wants you to read what an expert said about the Flint Lead Crisis.
Marc Edwards4 , an environmental engineer at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and a world-renowned expert on water treatment, talked to Scientific American Magazine about the crisis.
They didn’t follow Federal Law!
It turns out it is very simple: they didn’t follow federal law. Federal law requires that you have a corrosion control plan; a plan to stop the water from eating up your most expensive infrastructure—your pipes—and contaminating the water. That was the minimum acceptable response under the law. [Adding orthophosphates5 ] would have cost $100 a day.
Instead, because the corrosion inhibitor wasn’t there, plus the Flint River had higher chloride—eight times higher chloride. Chloride is corrosive—it’s road salt. The combination of not following the law, plus more corrosive water, triggered everything.
$100 a day could have possibly saved the people of Flint, MI all this pain associated with Lead.
What is Lead?
Lead6 is a metal that occurs naturally in the earth’s crust. Lead can be found in all parts of our environment. Much of it comes from human activities such as mining and manufacturing. Lead used to be in paint; older houses may still have lead paint.
Lead is especially dangerous for children. A child who swallows large amounts of lead may develop anemia, severe stomachache, muscle weakness, and brain damage. Even at low levels, lead can affect a child’s mental and physical growth.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has provided information on the health problems caused by lead.
Health Problems7 Caused by Lead
It does not matter if a person breathes-in, swallows, or absorbs lead particles, the health effects are the same; however, the body absorbs higher levels of lead when it is breathed-in.
Within our bodies, lead is absorbed and stored in our bones, blood, and tissues. It does not stay there permanently; rather it is stored there as a source of continual internal exposure. 1 As we age, our bones demineralize and the internal exposures may increase as a result of larger releases of lead from the bone tissue. There is concern that lead may mobilize from the bone among women undergoing menopause.2 Post-menopausal women have been found to have higher blood lead levels than pre-menopausal women. 3
Health effects from short-term overexposure to lead
Lead poisoning can happen if a person is exposed to very high levels of lead over a short period of time. When this happens, a person may feel:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Memory loss
- Pain or tingling in the hands and/or feet
Because these symptoms may occur slowly or may be caused by other things, lead poisoning can be easily overlooked. Exposure to high levels of lead may cause anemia, weakness, and kidney and brain damage. Very high lead exposure can cause death.
Lead can cross the placental barrier, which means pregnant women who are exposed to lead also expose their unborn child. Lead can damage a developing baby’s nervous system. Even low-level lead exposures in developing babies have been found to affect behavior and intelligence. Lead exposure can cause miscarriage, stillbirths, and infertility (in both men and women).
Generally, lead affects children more than it does adults. Children tend to show signs of severe lead toxicity at lower levels than adults. Lead poisoning has occurred in children whose parent(s) accidentally brought home lead dust on their clothing. Neurological effects and mental retardation have also occurred in children whose parent(s) may have job-related lead exposure.
Health effects from prolonged exposure to lead
A person who is exposed to lead over time may feel:
- Abdominal pain
Individuals with prolonged exposure to lead may also be at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, and reduced fertility.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided this information on the health problems caused by lead.
Jobs That May Have Lead Exposure
Certain jobs8 and industries are more likely to come in contact with lead.
These are some of the jobs have been known to put workers at risk of lead exposure:
- Artists (materials used may contain lead)
- Auto repairers (car parts may contain lead)
- Construction workers (materials used may include lead)
- Glass manufacturers (lead may be used in glass production)
- Lead manufacturers
- Manufacturers of bullets, ceramics, and electrical components (all contain lead)
- Painters (old paint and commercial paint may contain lead)
- Plastic manufacturers (materials made may contain lead)
- Plumbers and pipe fitters (pipes may contain lead)
- Police officers (ammunition contains lead)
- Radiator repairers (radiators may contain lead)
- Recyclers of metal, electronics, and batteries (may contain lead)
- Rubber product manufacturers (process contains lead)
- Shipbuilders (materials used may include lead)
- Solid waste incinerator operators (waste may contain lead)
Ronald Reagan famously once said,”Trust, but Verify.” He used it frequently when discussing U.S. relations with the Soviet Union. Black Americans should constantly be monitoring government agencies to ensure they serve and protect the public.
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