This is terrifying. We’ve been hearing about the horrible crisis Flint, Michigan has been dealing with since Governor Rick Snyder decided to appoint his friends to try and save money by switching to the corrosive and polluted Flint River.
If you go through the CDC data about state about lead poisoning, one thing becomes disgustingly clear: most states don’t even bother reporting lead poisoning. For the ones that do, however, it isn’t a pretty picture.
This is my home state of Oklahoma with data visualization, via Vox:
There are nine total counties across the country that gave data to the CDC reporting dangerously high lead poisoning levels. In fact, they are higher than Flint at 4 percent or over, and Oklahoma has some. That’s not something you hear a lot about in the news back home. Muskogee County, Creek County, and Seminole County all have a pretty disturbing ratio of those tested and those found to have lead poisoning. When it comes to places like Caddo County (that sits a little in the middle) I’m not surprised because the county has wells that are crumbling and the county doesn’t have the resources to fix a lot of these. In other counties we also have fracking water to contend with.
In Hugo, Oklahoma a photo went viral on Facebook when a woman showed the dark brown water her young child was taking a bath in. The city fired the county water treatment and hired a private company to handle their water treatment. When they did, the water turned brown. But this data from the CDC is from 2014 and the Hugo photo that went viral was in August of 2015, so there’s no data on what the water has done to the children there.
But Oklahoma isn’t the only state. Of the only 1,573 who sent data to the CDC 56 percent of them reported lead poisoning cases and Louisiana is one of the worst with a hand full who had serious and significant problems. If you look at the state breakdown below, you see a lot of grey area which a perfect metaphor. It’s grey because there’s no data, we have no clue if there’s lead poisoning at all because the county doesn’t report what their findings are.
Pennsylvania will scare the daylights out of you. It’s like a sea of deep purple. It’s terrifying to think how many families are unsafe. The thing that is different with older states like Pennsylvania who have older buildings is you have factors other than the water to contend with.
Tons of these older buildings have lead paint, so you never know what is causing it.
According to the World Health Organization:
Lead affects children’s brain development resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioral changes such as shortening of attention span and increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational attainment. Lead exposure also causes anemia, hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity and toxicity to the reproductive organs. The neurological and behavioral effects of lead are believed to be irreversible.
When you talk about testing these children, these are only children that are brought into hospitals with problems and are ultimately tested. So, think about all of the children that aren’t being tested or haven’t been tested. It would be great if we could come to some kind of standard that would test water quality and not just at the water treatment level but in people’s homes. At the very least, parents should have the knowledge so they can protect their children.
The other piece of this story that isn’t mentioned and I alluded to about Caddo County in Oklahoma is that our infrastructure is crumbling in ways that have gone beyond roads and bridges. Our pipes are decades old in most cities and it is only going to get worse the more polluted and corrosive our water becomes.
Feature image via video capture