By Amy Krug, president of the Rotary Club of Flint, Michigan, USA
We have been heartened by the outpouring of support from Rotary members in response to the water crisis in our city of Flint, Michigan. In April of 2014, a switch in the source of water from Lake Huron to the Flint River without an appropriate corrosive control plan resulted in erosion of pipe scale, lead solder, and lead copper joints which allowed the release of this lead into our water supply.
While the crisis is now news throughout the United States, work has been taking place on the ground for many months. Systems are in place to begin to address the immediate needs of families impacted by this emergency. Fire stations, churches, and community partners have been serving as points of access for families in need of water or water filters, while local agencies have been collecting and distributing donations as they come in.
We have been working with Rotary clubs throughout our area to coordinate some of this generous response. Here are ways you can help:
- Clubs can donate to the Rotary Club of Flint Charitable Foundation. Donations will be used to support water related efforts in the Flint area. See more details on our club website.
- Rotary members can donate to The Flint Child Health & Development Fund which was established at the Community Foundation of Greater Flint to support the delivery of critical public health, medical, and community-based services and interventions that address and mitigate the short and long term impacts experienced by Flint, Michigan, families exposed to lead as the result of the 2014-2016 Flint Water Crisis.
- Individuals wishing to make material donations of water or other items should refer to information on our website for distribution sites, which vary depending on the size of the donation.
- Individuals wishing to volunteer can register as an individual or a group at the Flint Volunteer Reception Center
The challenge that we face as a community is the long term impact of the months of unaddressed exposure to lead experienced by our community’s children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. And effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected.”
Experts are now stating that all children who drank the city’s water since April 2014 have been exposed to lead, regardless of their current blood lead levels. These tests only measure lead currently in the blood and do not accurately measure exposure. Blood lead levels decrease after 30 days as lead is distributed throughout the body, primarily to bones, teeth, and soft tissue. Lead accumulates in the body over time and blood-lead tests do not measure the overall lead burden in the body.
This translates to 8,657 children under age 6 in Flint that have been exposed to lead (based on Census data.) This number could be much higher in that it does not account for exposure to babies whose mothers drank the water during their pregnancy and those that were exposed but do not reside in the city and children of undocumented workers living in the city.
Your offers of support during these challenging times have been greatly appreciated. We are also reminded of all the work Rotary clubs do around the world to improve access to clean water and sanitation. Clean water is a basic need for human beings. And when people, especially children, have access to clean water, they live healthier and more productive lives.
Learn more about Rotary’s work to provide clean water and sanitation.