One Pediatrician’s Bold Research Brought Light to the Flint Water Crisis (Video)

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The ongoing effects of a poisoned water source in the town of Flint, Michigan continue to reverberate. After news broke that city officials had opted to save money by switching from one source of potable water (Lake Huron and the Detroit River) to another, apparently less potable source (Flint River), the national media has cast a stern eye on everyone from local politicians to Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder. All the attention has unsurprisingly resulted in backlash from celebrities and civilians alike, and the Hip-Hop community has gotten involved in raising awareness, organizing donations, and even creating music inspired by the events. All of the outrage is justified, as thousands of Flint residents, many of them children, have begun to display symptoms of lead poisoning, an illness many Americans think of as being outdated and easily preventable, much like polio. However, as the story has proven through its unfolding, once untreated water begins to travel through pipes, the corrosion of the infrastructure seeps into the taps of homes and businesses. Combine that with the corruption, laziness, and dishonesty of many elected officials, and the effective poisoning of an entire city can in fact become very real – and happen quite easily. The most enduring effects of the whole ordeal are, of course, the ailments felt by those who unknowingly drank poisonous neurotoxins for months – even years – on end. And that’s where Dr. Mona Hanna-Atisha comes in.

As a special guest on last night’s episode of The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, Dr. Hanna-Atisha shared her story of being a pediatrician in Flint and how the well-being of her patients continues to be threatened despite the “fixing” of the initial problem. Described as “one of the first to sound the alarm,” her work in noticing the early signs of lead poisoning in conjunction with the work of researchers and scientists helped Flint residents get the much-needed (though perhaps unrealized) medical attention they needed. This group of aggressively devoted heroes first published their findings in September 2015, and as Hanna-Atisha attests, they were immediately written off as being misinformed. Their tenacity endured, and history is now on their site, as their work was not only not misinformed, but indicative of a much wider problem. “After that water [source] switched, the number of kids with elevated lead levels doubled in the city of Flint,” she explains. Adding insult to egregious injury is the fact that some area businesses had long since opted out of using water from the Flint River. “General Motors stopped using [that] water in October of 2014 ’cause it was corroding engine parts. So, it’s corroding engine parts but its okay for our kids?” She and others have felt some overwhelming frustration surrounding the illogical decision by city lawmakers to opt out of Flint’s original water source – a decision made even more stupefying when it was reported that doing so was only saving a few dollars a day. “Flint is right in the middle of the Great Lakes. The largest source of fresh water in the world. In the world.

Once those details were uncovered, she says, “we had a professional, a moral, an ethical obligation to share this as soon as possible. To alert our families, our pregnant moms, our babies, to stop using this water. So we had a press conference.” That press conference would lead to the maelstrom of the last several months and much of the ire has been aimed directly at Governor Snyder. Many have called for his resignation, and he didn’t earn himself any supporters when he promised he’d drink Flint’s tap water for 30 days to prove that it was all good now (he later had to backtrack that promise as he conveniently left for a European vacation, which Wilmore excoriates in a previous segment). With Hanna-Atisha in the hot seat, Wilmore asks her what she things should happen to Snyder, and her response is quite diplomatic, but sobering in its realness. “I have to work with this governor, and I have to work with the next five governors when you understand the consequences of this problem.”

Related: Jon Connor Calls Flint’s Poisoned Water “Population Control” (Audio)