FLINT, MICHIGAN, Part 1
Emails released by the office of Gov. Rick Snyder last week referred to a resident who said she was told by a state nurse in January 2015, regarding her son’s elevated blood lead level, “It is just a few IQ points. … It is not the end of the world.” Dr. Hanna-Attisha and others who have studied lead poisoning have a sharply different view of lead exposure, for which there is no cure. “If you were going to put something in a population to keep them down for generations to come, it would be lead,” Dr. Hanna-Attisha said. [emphasis added]
OVERCOMING THE EFFECTS OF LEAD POISONING
My last post, The Common Knowledge is Wrong, was my attempt to defend public education in America. I maintain that public education is not failing. What is failing is our inability and/or unwillingness to take on the problems facing our children and their schools: a high rate of child poverty, inequitable resources in schools serving high-poverty students, and policy makers who choose to deflect their responsibility thereby dumping the problem on public schools. I wrote,
We don’t exclude economically disadvantaged students from our schools. We don’t exclude students with special needs from our schools. We don’t exclude students with behavioral challenges. America’s public schools, unlike private and privately run schools, must accept everyone.
Instead of blaming schools for societal problems…instead of privatizing…we ought to spend our time, energy, and resources on improving the schools we have. All of us, politicians included, should accept responsibility for the national shame that is our high child poverty rate.
It’s well known that poverty has an impact on student achievement. My contention in the above referenced post is that teachers and schools can’t overcome the affects of poverty in their students without additional help. What is the impact of poverty on students? In We Have a Poverty Crisis in Education on the Science of Learning Blog, Kristina Birdsong explains…
Students living in poverty struggle in ways most others do not. They face a plethora of issues, including but not limited to the following:
- Increased risk for behavioral, socioemotional, and physical health problems
- Decreased concentration and memory
- Chaotic home environment
- Higher rates of suspension, expulsion, absenteeism, and drop out
- Poor hygiene and malnutrition
- Lack of preparedness for school
Out-of-school factors like those listed by David C Berliner in his research study, Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success, have a definite and powerful impact on student achievement. One of the out-of-school factors Berliner discusses is that of environmental pollutants. Of the six issues listed above in Birdsong’s article, the first two can be directly caused by lead poisoning. The other four can be indirect results of lead poisoning.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that there is no safe blood lead level and the effects of lead poisoning are permanent.
…there is no safe blood lead level and the effects of lead poisoning are permanent.
NO SAFE LEVEL
No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Lead exposure can affect nearly every system in the body. Because lead exposure often occurs with no obvious symptoms, it frequently goes unrecognized.
Lead is a developmental neurotoxicant, and high blood lead levels (HBLLs) in young children can impair intellectual functioning and cause behavioral problems that last a lifetime. Primary prevention of HBLLs remains a national priority and is the only effective way to prevent the neurodevelopmental and behavioral abnormalities associated with lead exposure. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of children already have experienced blood lead levels known to impair academic performance.
Lead can cause brain and nervous system damage, slowed growth and development, hearing and speech problems, and thus, lowered school achievement. Dealing with children who have lowered ability, behavioral difficulties, or attention problems caused by lead is something schools have some experience with, but interventions can be expensive. The costs must be shared by the communities, states, and the federal government.
EAST CHICAGO, INDIANA
I’m not going to reproduce the entire history of the rise and fall of East Chicago’s industry and the subsequent discovery that the land in some areas of the city were contaminated. You can see an excellent timeline with details at Timeline: Timeline: History of the USS Lead Superfund site in E.C.
The election of Mike Pence as Vice-President of the United States has had an unintended benefit for the residents of East Chicago. When lead and arsenic contamination was found in the soil in areas around East Chicago, Pence did as little as he could to help the residents. Perhaps he thought because the contamination was in a high poverty area no one would notice. Perhaps he didn’t care because East Chicago and the surrounding urban area (the second largest metro area in the state) usually votes Democratic. In any case, once Pence left office, the new governor, Eric Holcomb, lost little time in getting help for the people.
Thank you, Governor Holcomb
Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Thursday he will grant a disaster declaration for East Chicago to help address issues at the U.S.S. Lead Superfund site – a request Vice President Mike Pence, the former governor, denied.
Mayor Anthony Copeland had previously requested a disaster declaration from Pence, but it was denied in December. Holcomb agreed to increase state assistance to the city, according to the governor’s office, and help residents of the Calumet neighborhood affected by lead and arsenic contamination.
Whether the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency will be of any assistance isn’t yet known. The point is, however, that the children of East Chicago, like those in Flint, Michigan, have already been damaged.
FLINT, MICHIGAN, Part 2
The state attorney says that the water in Flint is safe now, but people shouldn’t drink it. What gall!
Governor Snyder and his cronies who have punished the citizens of Flint for the last two years ought to be punished themselves. Here’s an idea. Move the Governor’s Mansion, and the State Offices to Flint so they will have to live under the same conditions as the residents.
The state has decided that it will no longer help its people by subsidizing water bills…
“Unfiltered Flint water is safe, just don’t drink it, says state attorney”. That was the headline for a recent MLive.com article. In the article, the state attorney says Flint’s drinking water is “safe” but, “We are still recommending residents don’t drink unfiltered water.”
Despite this fact, the state of Michigan announced this week that it will no longer be subsidizing the water bills for Flint residents who cannot drink the water they are paying for…
…in the city with the highest water rates, and arguably the worst water quality, in the country.
A study released Tuesday, Feb. 16, by Washington, D.C.-based Food & Water Watch showed Flint residents were being charged more for water than any other customers in the nation’s 500 largest community water systems.
HERE, THERE, AND EVERYWHERE
And it continues…
When experts said last year that New York City’s method of testing water in public schools for lead could hide dangerously high levels of the metal, officials at first dismissed the concerns. They insisted that the city’s practice of running the water for two hours the night before taking samples would not distort results.
Still, the city changed its protocol, and the results from a new round of tests indicate that the experts were right.
So far, the latest tests have found nine times as many water outlets — kitchen sinks, water fountains, classroom faucets or other sources — with lead levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s “action level” of 15 parts per billion as last year’s tests found, according to a report released by the state health department last week.
Three months after Fort Worth ISD announced it would be replacing hundreds of old drinking fountains due to high levels of lead found in school drinking water, a FOX 4 Investigation has uncovered that the problem is more widespread and will cost more money to fix than first believed.
There is no federal, state or local mandate requiring schools to test their drinking water. Fort Worth ISD voluntarily began testing a few schools in June after the lead contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan made national headlines.
In Portland, Ore., furious parents are demanding the superintendent’s resignation after the state’s largest public school district failed to notify them promptly about elevated lead levels detected at taps and fountains.
In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie (R) has ordered lead testing at every public school in the state after dozens of schools in Newark and elsewhere were found to have lead-contaminated water supplies.
Will policy makers continue to blame teachers, teachers unions, or lazy students for low student achievement?
Ask your legislator…