We Now Know Just How Bad the Flint Water Crisis Was for Pregnant Women – Olga Khazan Nov. 10, 2017 6:00 AM

A new study shows a major spike in miscarriages.

A Flint resident holds up a bottle of the city’s water along with hair pulled from her drain.Molly Riley/AP

This story was originally published by The Atlantic and appears here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

When the city of Flint, Michigan, temporarily switched its water source to the Flint River in 2014, it didn’t treat the water properly. The untreated river water corroded pipes, allowing lead to leach into the water. Tests found lead levels in the region’s water to be higher than that of hazardous waste, but the city failed to warn residents of the danger for months. State officials are now facing criminal charges for their role.

The devastating health consequences of this lapse are now becoming clear. A recent paper finds that the city’s lead crisis may have sparked a drop in birth rates and a precipitous rise in miscarriages. For the working paper, Daniel Grossman from West Virginia University and David Slusky from the University of Kansas compared fertility rates in Flint to those in other Michigan cities before and after Flint changed its water source in 2014.

They found that fertility, or the birth rate, declined by 12 percent among Flint women, and the fetal death rate increased by 58 percent. The authors describe the difference as “horrifyingly large,” but say it’s also an undercount, because it doesn’t include miscarriages that happened before the 20th week of gestation, which is when most hospitals start counting. It did not appear that women were worried about the lead and opting not to have kids—sadly, it seemed more likely that they weren’t aware of the lead threat.

Fertility Rate in Flint and Comparison Cities

Grossman and Slusky

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Don’t ignore the lame duck. Policy fights are raging in Congress that will affect millions. – Updated by Jeff Stein Dec 2, 2016, 2:30pm EST

Mitch McConnell has led the opposition to a bill that would rescue the pension funds of tens of thousands of coal miners. If Congress fails to act, the pensions are set to expire at the beginning of 2017. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Mitch McConnell has led the opposition to a bill that would rescue the pension funds of tens of thousands of coal miners. If Congress fails to act, the pensions are set to expire at the beginning of 2017. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Mitch McConnell has led the opposition to a bill that would rescue the pension funds of tens of thousands of coal miners. If Congress fails to act, the pensions are set to expire at the beginning of 2017. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

There’s less than two months left until the Republican Party takes complete control of the government on January 20, 2017.

But Washington won’t simply be at a standstill until then. What happens in Congress in the time President Obama has left — during what’s known as the “lame-duck session” — will have a huge impact on the lives of millions of Americans.

At stake is the safety of the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, the pensions of thousands of laid-off coal miners throughout Appalachia, the biggest health reform package since Obamacare, and the paychecks of all US troops — and that’s during what’s considered a relatively uneventful lull in the legislative chambers.

Perhaps just as importantly, the next seven weeks are when Democrats will lay the groundwork for the much bigger and more critical struggle against the soon-to-be empowered GOP. Where congressional Democrats decide to fight now — and who emerges as leading advocates of the opposition — will shape how they’ll try to stop the Republican Party in the next session.

Here is a look at five of the most important fights in the lame-duck Congress — and how they’ll influence the much bigger battles looming around the corner.

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Michigan Dems highlight Flint with unanimous opposition to CR – By Mike Lillis September 28, 2016, 11:58 pm

In parting votes of protest, Michigan’s Democrats on Wednesday unanimously opposed a short-term spending bill in order to send a clear message to GOP leaders heading into the long October recess: Funding for the Flint water crisis should have been part of the package.

“I’m grateful that we made progress, and no ill will toward anyone who worked on the CR. It just should have included Flint,” Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) said after voting against the continuing resolution (CR).

“We talked to each other early on about where we would be on the CR without Flint,” Kildee said of his Michigan colleagues, “so we just stuck with that.”

Although the Democrats, led by Kildee and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), had successfully negotiated the authorization of $170 million for Flint in a separate water bill that passed the House hours earlier, Congress must return to that legislation after November’s elections in order to iron out differences between the chambers and get it to the president’s desk.

By contrast, the CR included $500 million in emergency funds to help flood victims in Louisiana and several other states — money that will be available immediately. The Michigan Democrats are crying foul over the discrepancy.

“The money’s not going to come right away to Flint, and we’ve gotta get the money for the people of Flint,” Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) said after opposing the CR.

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This Region Is Twice Flint’s Size—And Its Water Is Also Poisoned – TOM PHILPOTT AUG. 17, 2016 6:00 AM

California’s agriculture boom means nitrate-tainted water for at least 212,000 people.

Farm workers harvest romaine lettuce in California’s Salinas Valley. Nancy Nehring/iStock

In two of California’s most productive farming regions, at least 212,000 people rely on water that’s routinely unsafe to drink, with levels of a toxin  above its federal limit. And even if the pollution source could be stopped tomorrow, these communities—representing a population more than twice as large as that of Flint, Michigan— would endure the effects of past practices for decades. That’s the takeaway of a major new assessment by researchers at the University of California-Davis.

The toxin in question is nitrate, which leaches into aquifers when farmers apply synthetic nitrogen fertilizers or large amounts of manure to fortify soil. Although probably not as ruinous as lead, the contaminant that fouled Flint’s water, nitrate isn’t something you want to be gulping down on a daily basis. Nitrate-laced water has been linked to a range of health problems, including birth defectsblood problems in babies, and cancers of the ovaries and thyroid.

A third of residents drank the nitrate-laced water available to them, while the rest spent extra money on bottled water, a 2011 study found.

According to the Davis report, nitrate takes a leisurely path from farm soil into the underground water sources that provide both irrigation and drinking water to these regions—taking anywhere from years to millennia. That means the high nitrate concentrations these communities now find in their water are the result of farming decisions made years and even decades ago—and “will persist well into the future,” even if farmers ramp down fertilization rates.

The reality is that the practices are unlikely to change anytime soon. The regions in question are two crucial nodes in California’s industrial-agriculture economy: the Tulare Basin in the southern Central Valley, a massive producer of milk, cattle, oranges, almonds, and pistachios, and the coastal Salinas Valley, which churns out about a half of the leaf lettuce and broccoli grown in the United States, and about a third of the spinach. Together, the two regions produce more than $12 billion in ag commodities and account for 40 percent of the state’s irrigated farmland and half its confined animal operations, according to an earlier Davis report.

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The 10 Best Moments From the Democratic Debate in Flint – | —By Hannah Levintova and Julia Lurie Mon Mar. 7, 2016 12:21 AM EST

 Behold the “Bern-splain.”

Carlos Osorio/AP

During Sunday night’s Democratic debate, hosted by CNN at the University of Michigan in Flint, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders answered several questions posed by residents of the city that is still reeling after lead-tainted water flowed through its pipes for 18 months. With just a few days to go until the primaries on Tuesday in Michigan, where 147 delegates will be at stake, these audience members and moderators Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon pushed Sen. Sanders and former Secretary of State Clinton to answer tough questions about poverty, religion, dismal schools, and whether the pair’s fairly recent interest in Flint is just a political tactic. Later in the debate, the candidates also tussled on guns, race, Hillary’s Wall Street speeches, fracking, and more. Notably, they spent hardly any time discussing their combative Republican rivals.

Here were the must-see moments:

1) Bernie and Hillary rip into the handling of the Flint crisis. Both called for Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s resignation—for the first time, in Clinton’s case. Clinton went on to blast the state government for its response to the crisis. “It is raining lead in Flint, and the state is derelict in not coming forward with the money that is required,” she said. As the crowd applauded, Sanders criticized the city’s sky-high water bills—calling for a retroactive refund of the bills that residents paid for lead-tainted water.

2) A Flint mom asks what the candidates will do about lead contamination. LeeAnne Walters, a mother of four from Flint who was partly responsible for exposing the crisis, asked the candidates if they would make a “personal promise” that they would require all lead service lines removed within their first 100 days in office. Sanders promised to make sure every water system was tested, while Clinton went further, saying she would commit to “remove lead from everywhere” within five years.

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Selling The Health Benefits Of Denver’s Tap Water — After Flint – JOHN DALEY Updated February 13, 20167:51 AM ET Published February 13, 20165:34 AM ET

A group of community leaders from Denver's Westwood neighborhood toured the Waterton Canyon Reservoir in late October, to learn how the city's water is filtered and treated.

A group of community leaders from Denver’s Westwood neighborhood toured the Waterton Canyon Reservoir in late October, to learn how the city’s water is filtered and treated. Courtesy of Cavities Get Around

The crisis of contaminated water in Flint, Mich., is making a public health message like this one harder to get across: In most communities, the tap water is perfectly safe. And it is much healthier than sugary drinks.

That’s a message that Dr. Patty Braun, a pediatrician and oral health specialist at Denver Health, spends a lot of time talking to her patients about.

“Over half of kindergartners have cavities,” Braun says, and the Latino kids she treats seem especially prone to tooth decay. She also notes that more than half of the Latino families she sees don’t drink tap water. And if the kids don’t drink tap water, she says, they don’t get the fluoride in it to protect their teeth.

Instead of tap water, many children gulp down sodas or juice — a double whammy that can mean more cavities and weight gain.

In some families, Braun says, a stigma against water from the faucet has been passed on through generations. And some recent immigrants, she says, hesitate to drink it based on prior experience with contaminated tap water in their native countries.

“If you’re used to living in a place where you would normally not want to drink the water because it’s not safe, then that’s what you’re going to bring over to any other new setting,” says Braun.

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The Mayor of Flint Is Vowing to Replace Every Resident’s Pipes – by Reuters FEBRUARY 9, 2016, 2:07 PM EST

She wants federal aid for the $55 million bill.

The mayor of Flint, Mich., which is struggling to cope with dangerous levels of lead in its drinking water, said on Tuesday the city would replace all residents’ pipes and was counting on state and federal help to foot the estimated $55 million bill.

The city of some 100,000 people was under control of a state-appointed emergency manager in 2014 when it switched its source of water from Detroit’s municipal system to the Flint River to save money.

That move has provoked a national controversy and prompted several lawsuits by parents who say their children are showing dangerously high blood levels of lead, which can cause development problems. Lead can be toxic and children are especially vulnerable.

“We’re going to restore safe drinking water one house at a time, one child at a time,” the city’s Democratic mayor, Karen Weaver, told reporters, adding she expected the state’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, to back the move.

Flint switched back to Detroit water in October after tests found high levels of lead in samples of children’s blood. The more corrosive water from the river leached more lead from the city pipes than Detroit water did.

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The Mayor of Flint Is Vowing to Replace Every Resident’s Pipes

How The Flint Water Crisis Could Send An Entire Generation To Prison – BY CARIMAH TOWNES JAN 22, 2016 10:58 AM



As Flint residents deal with the consequences of poisoned water, lawmakers, activists, and locals are already predicting what the crisis means for the future of the city.

Mayor Karen Weaver has pointed out that the disaster could devastate the juvenile justice system in the future.

“This damage to children is irreversible and can cause effects to a child’s IQ, which will result in learning disabilities…and an increase in the juvenile justice system,” she said when a state of emergency over lead levels was declared in December.

The current juvenile justice system in Flint is already rife with problems. It doesn’t have money to repair a detention center with non-functioning mechanical systems. Teenagers who are 17 years old are tried and sentenced as adults and housed with older offenders. Thousands of kids are arrested in school for minor disciplinary infractions.

With the water crisis still unresolved, experts believe the worst of the physical and psychological damage is still yet to come. And when it does, it will hit the already-troubled system hard.

“When children whose brains are actively developing are impacted by lead poisoning in particular…it can have a very deleterious effect on kids’ IQ and, ultimately, their behavior,” Frank Vandervort, clinical professor of law and co-founder of the Juvenile Justice Clinic at the University of Michigan, told ThinkProgress. “The kids who are likely to come in contact with the juvenile justice system tend to be kids who have had developmental disabilities, who have mental health problems.”

Lead poisoning causes mental retardation, shortened attention spans, and other behavioral disorders in children. It specifically damages the section of the brain that manages impulses and emotions. And recent research has linked childhood lead poisoning to violent crime. A study of children in Chicago found a shocking correlation between aggravated assault rates over time and exposure to lead. A similar study of young adults in Cincinnati who had lead poisoning in their blood as babies and small children, had a higher risk of arrest depending on how much lead they were exposed to.

“Most kids at some point in their adolescence violate a law,” Vandervort continued. “They drink and drive, they drink and are underage, they try marijuana, they smoke cigarettes…shoplift. But the kids who are more apt to be prosecuted are the kids who tend to have more severe problems.”

And for children who are already over-criminalized in Flint’s schools, impaired brain development could make things worse for them.

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