Flint, Michigan,Education,Flint Community Schools

After Flint’s lead crisis, the ‘most important medication’ for kids is education

December 21, 2016
in Kids

HARI SREENIVASAN: But first: a story about an effort in Flint, Michigan, to help its youngest residents cope with the possible effects of lead-contaminated water. It’s part of our weekly series on education, Making the Grade. HARI SREENIVASAN: More than a year after alarmingly high levels of lead were found in Flint’s water supply, the city has opened a free all-day early childhood center for children 2 months to 5 years of age. BOB BARNETT, University of Michigan, Flint: It’s for any children currently living in Flint or were living in Flint when lead exposure was at its worst. HARI SREENIVASAN: Bob Barnett, a dean of education for the University of Michigan in Flint, helped create the new early learning program. BOB BARNETT: We made phone calls. We went door to door to every single neighborhood in the city. HARI SREENIVASAN: Barnett had a mission, to reach families with the youngest children. That’s because lead is a neurotoxin that targets the developing brain. DR. MONA HANNA-ATTISHA, Hurley Medical Center: A child’s brain doubles in size from zero to 2. And when you have these insults to the developing brain at such a young age, it really impacts that entire trajectory of learning. HARI SREENIVASAN: Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician who discovered elevated lead levels in Flint’s children, says there’s a well-established link between lead exposure and learning disabilities. DR. MONA HANNA-ATTISHA: Lead has been shown to drop children’s I.Q., so it impacts how they think, and it impacts how they act. It has been linked to attention-deficit disorder, impulsivity, many other developmental delays. And so it has these life-course-altering consequences. HARI SREENIVASAN: More than 5,000 of Flint’s youngest children were put in danger when the city switched to a new water source, the Flint River, in the spring of 2014, causing lead from aging pipes to leach into the system. Since then, Flint officials have switched back to Lake Huron for their water supply, and although lead levels have been dramatically reduced, residents are still urged to use bottled or filtered water for everything from drinking to bathing. The lead exposure...

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