Cries against the lead-poisoned water got due attention recently, but Flint’s struggle against lead poisoning isn’t anything new. In fact, the crisis has actually been years in the making.

Where It All Began

Troubles started brewing in the year 2011, when Michigan took over Flint’s finances and began undertaking cost-cutting measures across all spheres of life. One such measure was to switch the city’s water supply. The crisis could also have been less worse, had the river been treated with an anti-corrosion agent using a treatment which would only cost the state approximately $100 per day. The month of April 2014 saw the state switching to the Flint River for its water supply and residents soon began complaining of a yellowish color, a pungent smell and a weird taste in their water. However, constant cries fell on deaf years. At least until July 2015, when an internal memo stating was leaked that the lead levels in the water for a particular test subject was high enough for her son to get lead poisoning.

Were the Conclusions Really Premature?

An EPA administrator told the mayor that drawing any conclusions based on the memo would be premature, which led Virginia Tech researchers to draw their own conclusions and confirm the presence of lead in August 2015. The Department of Environmental Quality still disputed the research, and in September, the life-threatening water finally began to show its true colors – the levels of lead in children from certain parts of the city were alarmingly high. The city’s water supply was poisoning their children.

Lead Affects Thousands of Flint Residents

The struggle is real, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. Life in Flint has changed dramatically over the past few years. The locals live their lives in a constant state of paranoia and fear and some refuse to take a shower. Others eat only in paper plates as hundreds suffer from hair loss and rashes. With 41% of the city’s population enduring this crisis in a state of poverty, things just kept getting worse. Locals began exchanging food stamps for bottled water and most still wonder whom to blame for this crisis.

‘I am Sorry, and I Will Fix It’

Rick Snyder, the governor of Michigan, publically apologized for the Flint water crisis on January 19, promising to fix the problems caused by the Flint River water. He requested $28 million in aid to help children with high levels of lead, pay for filters and bottled water, re-strengthen the infrastructural integrity of Flint and assist people with potential behavioral issues. Many decried it was too little too late.

This Could Be You

Lead poisoning has become a major problem for people around the world. Flint might be ground zero for the crisis, but children suffering from lead poisoning can be found in many parts of the country. In fact, the lead levels in the children of Rochester was double the amount of lead found in the Flint children in the year 2014. And water poisoning is just one part of the equation. Although lead has been phased out of many products such as in gasoline and paint over the years given the increasing awareness of the health concerns lead poses, its use today is still alarmingly high. Nevertheless, there are lead replacement products and lead alternatives available in the marketplace today. For example, while lead has often been used to deliver mass given its high density, there are lead substitutes such as high density compounds which can deliver equivalent mass and density but without the toxicity. Hopefully with the publicity of this terribly unfortunate crisis, there will be a growing awareness of the dangers posed by lead and even greater efforts and demand for lead substitute products.