The mayor of Flint, Michigan, has declared a state of emergency after a number of children suffered lead poisoning from the city’s tap water.
In a statement released Monday, Mayor Karen Weaver said the lead poisoning “will result in learning disabilities and the need for special education and mental health services and an increase in the juvenile justice system.”
The proportion of children and infants with above-average levels of lead in their blood has nearly doubled since the city began using the Flint River as its water source in 2014, a September study found.
Lead exposure causes longterm harm in both children and adults, though it is particularly harmful to young children. Children exposed to lead can suffer reduced IQ, shortened attention spans, learning disabilities and behavioral issues, according to the World Health Organization. The effects of lead exposure are irreversible.
In October, toxic levels of lead were found in the water at three area schools, with one school registering more than six times the federal safety standard, Michigan Live reported. Flint resumed using the Detroit water system as its main water source later that month, however at that point, thousands of the city’s children had already been exposed.
As the Detroit Free Press explains, the water sourced from the Flint River had high levels of lead as it is more corrosive than other water sources and therefore drew toxic metal out of the city’s water pipes.
Flint mom Melissa Mays told the newspaper that her family has experienced a range of health problems she attributes to lead exposure.
“I pushed [my teenage sons] to drink water – ‘Put down that juice, go get some water,’ ” she said. “Lead is in our blood.”