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Grappling with the Scope of the Flint, Michigan Water Disaster

By now much of the nation has heard of troubles with the water in Flint, Michigan. Even presidential candidates have weighed in on the tragedy affecting this community’s water supply. Despite concerns about the safety and purity of the town’s water supply as far back as two years ago, it has only been in recent months that local and national government agencies have taken steps to address the crisis. Some worry, however, that the government’s delayed response has already caused irreparable harm to thousands of Flint children.

When Poverty and Poor Water Collide

Government officials were forced to acknowledge a crisis in the town’s water supply after local medical professionals documented an undeniable spike the level of lead in Flint children’s blood. Now, a database has been created to track the names of Flint children who are under the age of six years old and who are suspected of having been exposed to lead through Flint’s drinking water supply. This database is estimated by some to include nearly 8,000 children. Long-term exposure to even low levels of lead can cause harm to an individual’s nervous system, reproductive system, and kidneys. In children, lead exposure can damage developing brains and lead to permanent learning disabilities and behavioral concerns. If a person is exposed to high levels of lead, convulsions and death can result.

Compounding the problem for exposed Flint children is the fact that many of these children and their families live in severe poverty. Some of the children determined to have been exposed to lead through the town’s drinking water had already been exposed to lead paint in their homes. Access to adequate medical care and social services for these children and their families is also not consistent. Thus, even though some of the complications these exposed children may face throughout their lives can be mitigated through medical intervention and the assistance of social service agencies, getting these services to these children consistently and over the long-term is not a simple task.

Compensation for Lead-Exposed Children is Not Simple

In the wake of the Flint water crisis, the state government has already allocated millions of dollars to help initially diagnose and treat lead-exposed children. Local philanthropic groups are also collecting funds with the goal of improving healthcare services in Flint over the long-term. The federal government has also been asked to help by expanding Medicaid eligibility to encompass every Flint child under the age of 21 years old. Unfortunately, only time will tell (as these children age) whether this response is sufficient to address this terrible tragedy.

Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C. is a Philadelphia and New Jersey environmental accident law firm helping victims of preventable environmental disasters recover compensation for their past and future losses. Contact our office if you have been injured in an environmental accident by calling (215) 567-3500 or by contacting our firm online.

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