26 January 2016
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, director of pediatric residency at Hurley Childrens Hospital in Flint, Mich., works at her desk, Jan. 2, 2016. The hospital is where more than 2,000 children have been tested for lead since the water switch was made in 2014. The doctor is credited with bringing the problem to the public’s attention. (Roger Schneider/AP)
While state agencies in Michigan long denied claims that the water in Flint was not safe to drink, several researchers and activists are credited with exposing the problem, including Flint pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who presented her work in September to skeptical officials.
Flint water became contaminated with lead as a result of a decision to switch the city’s water source and not treat that water with an anti-corrosive. The water corroded the pipes and fixtures, causing lead to dissolve into the water. Even after switching back to the original water source, the water remains unsafe to drink.
Now, Dr. Hanna-Attisha is helping residents understand the problems of lead poisoning and is working to create programs for those already seeing its effects. She speaks with Here & Now‘s Robin Young about her view of the crisis and what she thinks needs to be done now.
Interview Highlights: Dr. Hanna-Attisha
On how she discovered that there was lead in the water
“We were hearing reports of lead in the water by the Virginia Tech group and when we, as pediatricians, hear about lead anywhere we need to act. We know lead. When we started to do our research, we weren’t seeing kids coming in with symptoms of lead poisoning because lead is largely asymptomatic, it has no symptoms. It’s known to be kind of a silent pediatric epidemic. But we routinely screened children for lead and what we were seeing when we looked back at our numbers was that the percentage of kids with elevated levels doubled in the whole city and in some neighborhoods it tripled. And so we held this press conference and you don’t release research at press conferences but we had an ethical, moral obligation to inform the community that the water has lead and it looks like it’s getting into the bodies of children.”