This is a serious public health issue. Not having safe water seems like a third world problem. How could this happen in the USA?
Lead poisoning is usually an environmental problem. Primarily it comes from exposure to old lead paint in houses built prior to the early 1970’s. That’s amounts to about 1/3 of all dwellings. Other lead exposures are from soil, dust and water.
Flint, Michigan has a population of ~100,000, 25% poverty rate, one of the highest violent crime rates in the US, and is having its second financial emergency since 2004.
In 2012 the lead screening level was lowered from 10 to 5, but the treatment level remained the same at 45. So more high levels should have been found.
Still there is no known safe lead level. Brain and other organ damage are irreversible. So primary prevention is the strategy rather than response after exposure has taken place. Reducing lead paint hazards are the primary strategy for the CDC, Department of HUD and EPA. State and local health departments have screening responsibilities and follow ups. Homes are to be lead-safe and not contribute to childhood lead exposure.
So how does it happen in the USA? There is after all, an extensive preventative network in place for this perennial problem. Choices by those in charge resulted in an unexpected lead source entering the home. This was possibly economic-driven.
The approach to lead poisoning remains preventative. Before implementing a change in something vital such as the water supply, decision makers should seek more guidance from a proper authority like the CDC , EPA and local health departments. Even then close monitoring for unintended consequences is warranted.
Dennis Ayon M.D.