As the nation rightly focuses on Flint’s ongoing water crisis, other cities in the state of Michigan face even higher levels of lead contamination. The alarming pervasiveness of potentially toxic drinking water extends across the United States.
The Detroit News reports that “Elevated blood-lead levels are seen in a higher percentage of children in parts of Grand Rapids, Jackson, Detroit, Saginaw, Muskegon, Holland and several other cities, proof that the scourge of lead has not been eradicated despite decades of public health campaigns and hundreds of millions of dollars spent to find and eliminate it.”
Of over 7,000 children tested in the Highland Park and Hamtramck areas of Detroit in 2014, 13.5 percent tested positive for lead. Among four zip codes in Grand Rapids, one in ten children had lead in their blood. In Adrian and south-central Michigan, more than 12 percent of 640 children tested had positive results.
These overall numbers are higher than Flint’s, where Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha found lead in up to 6.3 percent of children in the highest-risk areas;while The Guardian reported Dr. Hanna-Attisha has also said the rate is as high at 15 percent in certain “hot spots,” the size of those samples was not listed. Even so, the overall figures across Michigan are lower than in previous years. In 2012, children tested across Michigan had lead in their blood at a rate of 4.5 percent, about five times less than the rate ten years prior, which reached an alarming 25 percent. In spite of the decrease in recent years, however, thousands of children in Michigan are still affected.
“In 2013, that level sank to 3.9 percent and fell again to 3.5 percent in 2014. But that is still 5,053 children under age 6 who tested positive in 2014,” theDetroit News explained. “Each had lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter. (Though no amount is considered safe, 5 micrograms is the threshold that experts say constitutes a ‘much higher’ level than most children.)” One Detroit zip code had a rate of 20.8 percent of children who tested positive in 2014, and 20.3 percent the following year.
The outrage in Flint is especially warranted because of the pronounced effects of lead on children. Lead, a known toxin, is associated with bothphysical and mental ailments, and according to one Detroit teacher, has harmed the cognitive abilities of students.
Kieya Morrison, a veteran kindergarten teacher, who now teaches preschool, described a recent student known to have elevated levels of blood in her system. The girl experienced difficulties grasping simple cognitive tasks, like differentiating between a triangle and a square. “She had cognitive problems. She had trouble processing things,” Morrison said. “She could not retain any of the information.” The University of Michigan recently found a link between lead in children and lower academic test scores.
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