The Flint Water Crisis: Never Let A Crises Go To Waste [Part Two of Three]
Never Let A Crisis Go To Waste
You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before. Rahm Emanuel
Protesters in Flint - Image Source
Read Part One Here
Late in August of 2014, a pediatrician named Mona Hanna-Attisha from the Flint Hurley Medical Center had a friend in the EPA tell her of high levels of lead in some Flint homes' tap water. She became suspicious that children must be affected by such levels and the State was covering it up.
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha - Image Source
In interviews, she says that as a pediatrician, any amount of lead is concerning and she was sure there must be some effect on the children passing through the medical center. The interesting thing about this is that she did not contact the state for their lead poisoning stats until September of 2015, about two weeks before she went public with her own results. Source: emails from the lead poisoning division of Healthy Homes, FOIA document pg. 32
Since getting State data would take some time due to HIPAA laws (and I believe since she was convinced she was going to prove a State coverup), she went through the Hurley hospital records to look for any change in children's blood lead level tests.
Dr. Mona's Targeted Study
Her methods of collecting this data were a little unusual. She looked for a very specific age group in a very specific set of ZIP codes (the poorest ones) and she looked for all positive lead tests instead of looking for first-time raised levels (showing a change in environment). And she discovered a rise of EBLs in one zip code the summer before (it had gone back to normal). She had discovered a rise in two more the summer of 2015.
She doesn't seem to have understood the history or implications of how blood lead levels are interpreted. Which is why doctors usually consult with someone else when they encounter something outside their area of expertise.
Some Important But Boring Facts
There are a few things about lead in blood that are not covered by the media because this stuff is just too technical and each side is too busy telling their political story.
1.) The basic lead level of any child in an industrial area is about 3 micrograms per deciliter. What does this mean? If you do a basic test for lead in a city child's blood, you're probably going to get a positive. You have to do a vein-draw to know HOW MUCH lead is in a child's system.
2.) The toxic lead level in a child's blood used to be considered 10 ug/dl. Just a few years ago, that level was dropped to 5 ug/dl. So the amount of "concerning" lead in the blood is now half of what it used to be. This skews results if you're looking back at historical figures. Even so, Flint's numbers with the old measurement used to be far higher.
3.) If the normal level of lead in a city child's blood is 3 ug/dl and 5 ug/dl is now considered concerning, it takes a very tiny amount of extra lead to mark that child as at risk for lead poisoning.
4.) Three consecutive readings of 5-or-more ug/dl is what leads to the diagnosis of "lead poisoned". With most kids, as soon as there's one high level reading their concerned parents do something about it and the level immediately drops below concern again.
Why Bring This Up?
All these boring facts are important to understanding the children of Flint are not being continually poisoned by their water.
Children protesting during Flint water protests - Image Source
Even Dr. Mona's numbers won't support that conclusion, though it's the conclusion she likes to draw.
Dr. Mona didn't dice her numbers as she was originally thought to have. But she did exaggerate her reading of them (she has stated that the numbers she has are "massively underestimated" because only 40% of Flint children on Medicare were tested). She either did not know or chose to omit important pieces of information like the static lead level from her study and subsequent interviews.
I think she doesn't like them because they clutter the narrative, but it's hard to say for certain because I don't know her personally.
It remains a factor that she believes any level of lead in a child's blood is toxic and therefore believes a positive test should be called lead poisoning. All children in any industrial area are lead poisoned by this standard.
Going To Press
If her study on "lead poisoned children" was unorthodox, Dr. Mona's next actions were more so.
Without consulting lead professionals, without getting peer review of her results, without comparing them to other industrial cities around the country to see if her results were normal and not from the water change...
Dr. Mona called a press conference.
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha at press conference Sept. 24, 2015 - Image Source
Her statements were calculated to shock, claiming there was a current and dire emergency and telling Flint residents that the number of lead poisoned children in the city had doubled over the past year. (Giving actual numbers and comparing it to nationwide averages wasn't dramatic enough)
She said this huge spike was obviously from the water change. No other situation could account for it.
Read Part One Here
Read Part Three Coming Up Soon
Curated for #informationwar (by @ironshield)
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Never heard any of this before, looking forward to seeing what the last part holds!
Also side note...if I were getting massive upvotes like you have been getting I would try to post as often as I could....with good content of course! hehe
Are you saying that there is NO crisis? So... all the people dying are fake news? What are you saying here?
Not to mention the extreme anxiety and stress that all of this caused. Why ignore that?
Howdy lturner! holy moly, this whole mess is because of this one crusading doctor? One who is a total amateur in the area she is declaring an emergency about! wow, this is so interesting, great writing lturner!