The Academy is calling on the federal government to declare a public health emergency in Flint, Mich., where thousands of children have been exposed to lead in the drinking water.
“These children and their families will need long-term help in coping with the ways this lead exposure will impact their physical and behavioral health, their schooling, their exposure to toxic stress, and much more,” AAP President Benard P. Dreyer, M.D., FAAP, wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama.
Problems arose in Flint in April 2014 when it started using water from the Flint River through an old system without corrosion control. State and local officials claimed the water was safe, but pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, was among the experts who proved it was actually poisoning children. She and her colleague, Lawrence Reynolds, M.D., FAAP, presented the issue to the AAP Michigan Chapter, which helped them consolidate advocacy efforts and coordinate with the Academy’s national office.
Roughly 8,000 to 9,000 children are believed to have been exposed to the lead in Flint’s water, which can cause behavior problems, reading disabilities and impairments to developing cardiovascular, immune and endocrine systems.
Gov. Rick Snyder recently declared a state of emergency for Genessee County and Flint, and President Obama has signed an emergency declaration that mobilizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate assistance and provide funding for water, water filters and water test kits.
The Academy is asking the federal government to take additional action by directing resources from the Department of Health and Human Services, Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Education to Flint.
AAP Executive Director/CEO Karen Remley, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., FAAP, said, “Declaration of a public health emergency could allow additional, needed resources to be marshalled quickly so that every child is identified for screening and treatment if needed. A door to door, neighborhood by neighborhood approach is needed. We have the best public health emergency teams in the world, these children deserve nothing less. Through a coordinated and comprehensive effort we as a healthcare and public health community can best maximize the long term outcomes for families.”
The Academy has offered its evidence-based interventions to provide long-term assistance to Flint families.
“These recommendations which span the domains of education, nutrition, and physical and mental health, are proven interventions to optimize children’s health,” Dr. Dreyer wrote.
He also has pledged continued Academy support to the AAP Michigan Chapter, saying “We will work closely with the pediatricians in Flint to weather the crisis and ensure that Flint children get the help they need.”