Preventive Medicine Failure: The Flint Michigan Example

The crucial role of preventive medicine is usually not quite apparent until there is a costly blatant failure as presently exemplified at Flint Michigan. The dangerous effect of lead poisoning on modern society is so well recognized that homes and public water supply systems built in the US in the last two decades have been totally free of lead pipes.

Older homes and public water supply systems have either been repiped or demolished for obvious safety reasons. Cities that are unable to identify all their old lead pipe connections use corrosion control to protect inner lining of city water pipes. When these basic preventive measures (Kemper, Alex et al, 2007) were overlooked in Flint Michigan, a huge water crisis quickly developed.

Flint City had been buying healthy Huron Lake water treated at Detroit water plants for over fifty years prior to 2013. But in 2013 the city voted to switch over to a cheaper water pipeline being built to Lake Huron. This caused Detroit City to abruptly cancel their water supply contract leaving Flint without water supply.

On April 25, 2014, in a desperate move to maintain water supply to 100,000 Flint citizens Darnell Earley, an emergency city manager, appointed by Governor Rick Snyder, decided (Reissman, DB et al, 2001) to switch their water supply to the corrosive Flint river water, without corrosion control and against expert warning. Experts had recommended a short term contract renewal with Detroit City to by Flint City the time it needed for lead pipe replacement and corrosion control, at an estimated cost of 1.5 million dollars. But that recommendation was overtaken by even

Soon after the switch Flint household started reporting fowl odor from their tap water, along with brown discoloration. The local DEQ tested and confirmed E. Coli in Flint watersystem. Chlorine was introduced into the water system to clear the bacteria, and citizens were reassured that the city water safe. By January 2015, a toxic level of chlorine byproducts, Total Trihalomethanes (TTHM) was reported in the Flint water system.

Between April and June 4014, Flint residents started reporting deeper browning of their tap water, hair loss, and neurological symptoms in their kids. The DEQ tested samples of Flint City water and said it met federal standards of <5 parts per million of lead (Handler, Phoebe, etal, 2016). It even went as far as reporting to EPA that Flint City was compliant in their use of erosion control, which was not true.

Flint citizens became suspicious of their DEQ, and started conducting their own water testing and blood testing for lead (Carty Denise C. et al, 2016). The found toxic levels of lead in their tap water. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha a pediatrician at Hurley Medical Center, also discovered a rise in the number of school kids with high blood lead from 2.9% – 4.9% since the switch in April 2014. So they invited an expert, Dr. Edwards, a city water lead control advocate, from Virginia Tech to come and test their tap water …