The most disadvantaged neighborhoods in Flint have been the hardest hit by the lead poisoning crisis, new research finds. It also points directly to the city’s decision to switch water sources to the Flint River as causing higher lead levels in residents’ bloodstreams.
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and her team of researchers compared blood levels of children under five in tests taken before the water source changed in 2013 to tests taken in 2015. As the paper with their findings notes, the “analysis identified disadvantaged neighborhoods as having the greatest elevated blood lead level increases.”
In Ward 5, the percentage with an elevated blood level (5 micrograms of lead per deciliter or more) was already high before the current crisis, at 4.9 percent. Yet after the children started drinking Flint River water, the rate more than tripled, to 15.7 percent. Ward 6 saw the same thing: before the crisis, 2.2 percent of children had elevated lead levels in their blood, which more than tripled to 9.3 percent afterward. Although Ward 2 levels were lower overall, the neighborhood saw a sizable increase: from no children with elevated lead levels to 1.4 percent afterward.