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Lessons about lead poisoning from Flint, Michigan

During the three years that the people of Flint, Michigan have been struggling with the lead-tainted water coming out of their faucets, most of the scientific attention has been directed toward the effects of lead on children's brains.

A recent Washington Post article makes clear that another effect of lead is just as terrible: the deaths of babies still in the womb.

Fetal death statistics 

A report by health economists Daniel Grossman of West Virginia University and David Slusky of Kansas University claims that some 198 to 276 babies conceived from November 2013 through March 2015, died before being born because of the lead in Flint's water.

This case is especially deplorable because state officials knowingly switched from safe water to lead-polluted water.

Flint decided in 2014 to draw water from the Flint River, a source notorious for industrial waste going back nearly a hundred years. People in Flint knew there was something seriously wrong with drinking water that was dirty and smelled bad. But well into 2015 the city and state were assuring people who depended on that water to live was fine.

Flint and Los Angeles

Flint is a rust belt Midwestern city with lead issues different from Southern California, where the most common problem involved lead paint. But the danger of lead that becomes embedded in a child's body, from conception through childhood, is very similar.

The deleterious effects of lead on the health and well-being of children is beyond dispute. They include cognitive problems, anger issues, poor performance in school, and an assortment host of functional issues with the brain, kidneys and liver.

The full paper, titled "The Effect of an Increase in Lead in the Water System on Fertility and Birth Outcomes: The Case of Flint, Michigan," can be accessed here.

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