City of Flint issues lead advisory after doctors report spike in blood lead levels in children

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FLINT (WJRT) - (09/24/15) - Hurley Medical Center doctors are reporting a spike in blood lead levels in children.

Doctors, educators and business owners are all together, voicing serious concerns and demanding action be taken.

This was truly a united effort of health professionals in the area. There were doctors representing Hurley and the Health Department.

The atmosphere when the announcement was made was very serious because these doctors feel the water situation is at the point of being dangerous.

The bottom line is that doctors say they've found lead in samples of children's blood in Flint. They say it's coming from Flint's water.

Doctors repeatedly said no level of lead is OK in the bloodstream.

They say infants and pregnant women are most at risk.

Health officials are basing these findings on a series of tests they ran on children in Flint under the age of five. They measured their blood lead levels before the switch from Detroit to Flint River water in April of 2014 - and after.

What they found were significantly higher levels after the switch - about an average of double the amount of lead in those kids' bloodstreams. In some zip codes with especially high levels of lead in their water, the results were even higher.

So what does this all mean?

"Lead causes permanent, irreversible brain damage. Problems that result in behavior problems. Memory problems. Learning disability problems. Emotional problems and later lead to criminal justice problems because of mood control problems," said Dr. Larry Reynolds, with Mott Children's Health Center and the Flint Health Coalition

"We ethically cannot do anything when we see results like this. The best thing anyone can do is breastfeed. So breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed. But our rates in the city are low for breastfeeding. For high risk groups, especially those infants that are on the formula and pregnant moms, we would say no tap water. Lead clearing filters are a good idea. More public education is needed," said Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, of Hurley Medical Center. "So if a parent is concerned and they live in the city of Flint, check, you know, ask to get the blood lead level checked and take all the other precautions. Especially, you know, no formula with tap water, running your cold water, no cooking with hot tap water, flushing your system, doing all these other precautions that the Health Department will be educating us on are very necessary to decrease any potential exposure."

The Genesee County Health Department is doing free lead testing.

Friday, a lead advisory was issued by the city of Flint.

A lead advisory means people in Flint should take measures to protect themselves from elevated lead levels in the city's water.

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling said he is extremely concerned about the lead problem. He said the goal of the City right now is to do whatever it takes to get those levels down, which includes asking for state and federal intervention.

"I was extremely concerned to hear from our doctors about any elevated blood lead levels. The city agreed to work with our health partners to issue the lead advisory. We need to ensure that everyone in this community gets information as fast as possible about steps that can be taken to minimize risk of lead exposure," he said.

Doctors say the shocking study results are probably underestimated numbers.

More information can be found by clicking on the 'Related Links' in this story, including a new website announced Friday by state Senator Jim Ananich. The website includes the latest information on the Flint water worries and has a has a number for the health department and tips for reducing lead in your water.

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