Flint, Mich. Mayor declares state of emergency as amount of lead in children's blood skyrockets

Flint, Mich. Mayor Karen Weaver, PhD, declared a state of emergency in the city on Monday night due to a "manmade disaster" that has resulted in a number of children in the city experiencing dangerously high levels of lead in their blood.

The disaster Dr. Weaver referred to in the declaration was the 2014 switch from using the Detroit water system as the city's primary source of water to the Flint River. Almost immediately after this switch took place, residents began expressing concerns about water quality, including a foul odor and cloudy appearance, according to The Washington Post.

Lead poisoning impacts brain development in children, according to the World Health Organization, resulting in both behavioral changes and reduced intelligence quotient. It is also toxic to the reproductive system and can cause anemia, renal impairment and hypertension.

Despite complaints from Flint residents, city officials have maintained the river water was safe, even though a state-issued notice from January acknowledged the presence of unsafe levels of a chlorine byproduct, trihalomethanes, which are thought to be carcinogenic. After scientific evidence mounted that called into question the safety of the river water and Flint residents demonstrated to bring attention to the issue, Gov. Rick Snyder announced a plan in early October to switch back to the Detroit water system, according to The Washington Post. On Oct. 16, Flint began once again receiving its water from Detroit.

An emailed response to The Washington Post from Gov. Snyder's press secretary maintains the water is currently safe to drink and some families with lead plumbing may experience higher levels of lead than others. The governor also implemented a plan that includes free water testing and filters, according to the response.

In November, parents of affected children and other Flint residents filed a class-action lawsuit against the governor, the state, the city and 13 other officials for the damages they have suffered since changing water systems.

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