The Poisoning of Flint Michigan

The water in Flint, Michigan has been contaminated with lead since April, 2014. There is no safe level of lead in the body. Government officials initially denied that there was a problem with the water, and did not acknowledge it until September, 2015. The water was finally declared unsafe for drinking, by state and local inspectors, in October, 2015, after Flint residents had been using the poisoned water for 18 months. Lead poisoning can have serious immediate and long-term consequences for both children and adults.


  • April, 2014 – The water source for Flint, Michigan was switched from Detroit’s water supply to the Flint River, in an effort to cut costs. Water must be altered to prevent it from corroding lead pipes, but the water was not treated properly. There were immediate complaints about the appearance, taste, and smell of the water.
  • March, 2015 – Officials claimed that the water in Flint had improved and that it met state and federal safety standards.
  • September, 2015 – Doctors call for Flint to stop using water from the Flint river after finding high levels of lead in children’s blood, but regulators continue to insist that the water is safe.
  • September 29, 2015 – Government officials finally acknowledge that there is a problem and Governor Rick Snyder says he will take action.
  • October, 2015 – State and local inspectors declare the water unsafe for drinking. Michigan approves $9.4 million in aid for Flint, and plan to switch the water source back to Detroit’s water supply.
  • January, 2016 – Governor Snyder declares a state of emergency. President Obama signs an emergency declaration but refuses to declare the situation in Flint a disaster.

Consequences of Lead Poisoning

Lead exposure affects adults and children differently. It is more dangerous for children. Children absorb 30% to 50% of the lead thy ingest, whereas adults only absorb about 10%. Young children’s brains and bodies are still developing the mechanisms that help protect adults from lead poisoning.

Consequences of lead poisoning in children can include:

  • Permanent brain injury
  • Nervous system damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Learning disabilities
  • Lowered IQ
  • Language and speech problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Impaired memory
  • Poor motor skills
  • Difficulty planning and organizing
  • Difficulty with abstract concepts
  • Cognitive inflexibility
  • Hearing damage
  • Poor muscle coordination
  • Decreased bone and muscle growth
  • Damage to internal organs
  • Behavioral problems
  • ADD and ADHD
  • Hyperactivity
  • Seizures
  • Death

Adults can suffer very serious harm from lead poisoning as well, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney damage
  • Reduced IQ
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Memory loss
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Neurological disorders
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Damage to the reproductive system
  • Anemia

Children can be exposed to lead anywhere in the country, often in their own homes. Learn more about Childhood Lead Poisoning, and how your child may be exposed.


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