Flint Pediatrician Concerned About High Lead Levels in Drinking Water

Many communities across the nation are concerned about their water quality—especially the presence of lead. Here, Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician who helped expose the lead water crisis in Flint, Michigan, talks about the dangers of lead in children and why we must protect them from this toxic metal.

This is a transcript of the video.

When a pediatrician hears the word "lead," we just, there's nothing more to say than we freak out. We freak out when we hear the word "lead."

Lead is probably the most well-studied neurotoxins—poisons—ever known.

We've known about what lead has done for centuries.

I'm a pediatrician, which means I literally took an oath to protect children. I did the research that kind of uncovered the rising blood lead levels in Flint, and when that came out, it was dismissed and denied and attacked by those who were telling us that the water was safe.

And when the pediatrician hears the word "lead," you can't reassure—you can't say anything to reassure us. You just stop what you're doing and you need to learn more.

You need to act.

Every agency tells us, from the CDC to American Academy of Pediatrics, that there is no safe level of lead.

Lead is a potent, irreversible neurotoxin. It impacts almost every organ system, and really, every age population.

But we worry about the children the most because they're the most developmentally vulnerable, especially children under the age of six.

Once it is in your body, and causes that neurotoxicity, it impacts your nervous system, your development. It impacts cognition, which is how we think. So it drops children's IQ levels.

It impacts behavior, how kids act. And it can lead to attention problems and behavioral problems, conduct disorders, criminality. So, fundamental functionings of a child.

Once it is in your bones, it can come back out at future times. If you are, for example, stressed or pregnant, or have poor nutrition in the future, it can come back out of your bones and cause that neurotoxicity all over again.

There's no good thing about lead; it's not supposed to be in our bodies.

But unfortunately, we continue to live with the legacy of lead, be it underneath layers of paint or under soil from gasoline contamination, but also in our drinking water infrastructure.

So it is so hard to believe, but we actually have a known neurotoxin delivering the drinking water to much of our nation's infrastructure.

It is something we need to act on. It's something that we need to truly respect the science on.

We need to move towards primary prevention to make sure that no child is ever exposed to lead.

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