Lead in Drinking Water

Lead in Drinking Water
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What happened in Flint, Michigan, how was it discovered, and how many more Flints are there?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Back in the 60s, a Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist described the problem of childhood lead poisoning as “so well defined, so neatly packaged with both causes and cures known, that if we don’t eliminate this social crime, our society deserves all the disasters [it has coming].”

Well, “[w]e have the knowledge to redress this social crime. We know where the lead is, how people are exposed, and how it damages health. What we lack is the political will to do what should be done.” Unfortunately, “many policy makers consider the costs of action primarily in economic and financial terms and ignore the costs of inaction on human health and communities’ livelihoods.”

“At this point, most Americans have heard of the avoidable and abject failure of government on the local, state, [and] federal level[s]”–in fact, across the board, “to prevent the mass poisoning of hundreds of children and adults in Flint, Michigan.”

“A government plan to save [some] money had led public officials to switch the city’s water source from [one of the great lakes] to the Flint River,” the [past] sewer [of] the auto industry.” “Flint citizens…complained that their tap water was foul and discolored. But…officials took no heed.” I wonder why.

“[O]fficials failed to act…for eighteen months until a local pediatrician revealed dramatically elevated lead levels in children’s blood.” An investigation didn’t just find fault, but highlighted seeming falsification of “water-quality results” to keep people in the dark.

Though “the specific breed of alleged government corruption” may be “unique” to Flint, “the end result might not be so rare in the USA—home to an ageing water system.” As the president of the Children’s Health Fund has said, “Pandora’s box is now wide open.” Flint may be “only the tip of an enormous iceberg,” potentially “one of a great many icebergs.”

In addition to lead paint and the residual lead everywhere from leaded gasoline, lead can leach from “lead pipes,…solder, or…fixtures.” Recognized to be a health issue in the U.S. back in 1845, a year our flag only had 26 stars; yet, “[t]he use of lead in water pipes and solder was not restricted until the…Safe Drinking Water Act Amendment,” 141 years later. Was the city you’re living in built before 1986? Today, “[t]he exact number of lead water pipes currently in use is not clear.” About one in three cities surveyed shrugged their shoulders.

There are anti-corrosion chemicals you can add to tap water to try to keep the lead in the pipes. Flint could have done that, but it could have cost about $100 a day. Now, they only have to pay a billion dollars.

Let me close with a quote from the heroic pediatrician who blew the whistle, Dr. Hanna-Attisha. She was asked “What advice would you have for other physicians taking on a whistle-blower role?” She replied, “This is our job. This is why we went to medical school—to help people.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: r. nial bradshaw via Flickr. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Tyler McReynolds, Teetotalin LLC.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Back in the 60s, a Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist described the problem of childhood lead poisoning as “so well defined, so neatly packaged with both causes and cures known, that if we don’t eliminate this social crime, our society deserves all the disasters [it has coming].”

Well, “[w]e have the knowledge to redress this social crime. We know where the lead is, how people are exposed, and how it damages health. What we lack is the political will to do what should be done.” Unfortunately, “many policy makers consider the costs of action primarily in economic and financial terms and ignore the costs of inaction on human health and communities’ livelihoods.”

“At this point, most Americans have heard of the avoidable and abject failure of government on the local, state, [and] federal level[s]”–in fact, across the board, “to prevent the mass poisoning of hundreds of children and adults in Flint, Michigan.”

“A government plan to save [some] money had led public officials to switch the city’s water source from [one of the great lakes] to the Flint River,” the [past] sewer [of] the auto industry.” “Flint citizens…complained that their tap water was foul and discolored. But…officials took no heed.” I wonder why.

“[O]fficials failed to act…for eighteen months until a local pediatrician revealed dramatically elevated lead levels in children’s blood.” An investigation didn’t just find fault, but highlighted seeming falsification of “water-quality results” to keep people in the dark.

Though “the specific breed of alleged government corruption” may be “unique” to Flint, “the end result might not be so rare in the USA—home to an ageing water system.” As the president of the Children’s Health Fund has said, “Pandora’s box is now wide open.” Flint may be “only the tip of an enormous iceberg,” potentially “one of a great many icebergs.”

In addition to lead paint and the residual lead everywhere from leaded gasoline, lead can leach from “lead pipes,…solder, or…fixtures.” Recognized to be a health issue in the U.S. back in 1845, a year our flag only had 26 stars; yet, “[t]he use of lead in water pipes and solder was not restricted until the…Safe Drinking Water Act Amendment,” 141 years later. Was the city you’re living in built before 1986? Today, “[t]he exact number of lead water pipes currently in use is not clear.” About one in three cities surveyed shrugged their shoulders.

There are anti-corrosion chemicals you can add to tap water to try to keep the lead in the pipes. Flint could have done that, but it could have cost about $100 a day. Now, they only have to pay a billion dollars.

Let me close with a quote from the heroic pediatrician who blew the whistle, Dr. Hanna-Attisha. She was asked “What advice would you have for other physicians taking on a whistle-blower role?” She replied, “This is our job. This is why we went to medical school—to help people.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: r. nial bradshaw via Flickr. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Tyler McReynolds, Teetotalin LLC.

Doctor's Note

Wasn’t there lead in paint, too, for the longest time? Yes, and that’s the subject of my video How the Lead Paint Industry Got Away with It. And, what about leaded gasoline? How many of you remember going to the pumps and seeing the choice between leaded and unleaded? That’s the subject of How the Leaded Gas Industry Got Away with It.

I also get into what the effects are and what we can do about it. Check out:

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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