Downtown Flint, Mich. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Nakiya Wakes sat across from me in a Flint, Mich., coffee shop on one of those cloudy, dreary days symbolic of the reeling Rust Belt city.
It was March 2017, nearly two years after Wakes had the first miscarriage. After losing her first baby, she learned there was still a heartbeat—she was actually pregnant with twins, and she hadn’t yet lost her other baby. But her spirits were crushed when she miscarried again, losing the second baby.
This wasn’t the last of the devastating news for Wakes. In September 2017, she learned she was again pregnant with twins. She was hopeful but cautious, feeling deep within her gut that the lead-ravaged water she’d consumed for over a year had made it difficult to carry a baby to full term. Unfortunately, her trepidation was well-founded. She went on to miscarry this set of twins. In total, Wakes lost four babies in two years.
“I was drinking, bathing, everything since I moved to Flint in 2013. I was drinking this contaminated water,” Wakes told me.
It was far too easy for doctors to dismiss her multiple miscarriages as a result of her age: She was 42 when she miscarried for the second time. But research indicates that the lead crisis in Flint may have played a role. The crisis unfolded in 2014 when the city changed its water source from Detroit’s system to the Flint River. Because corrosion control was not added to the water supply, lead leached from the pipes into Flint’s water, causing a variety of health problems for residents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lead poisoning increases the chances for a miscarriage.
And in September 2017, health economists at West Virginia University and Kansas University released a working paper, finding a “horrifyingly large” increase in fetal deaths and miscarriages in Flint—stating that between “198 and 276 more children would have been born had Flint not enacted the switch in water.”
While mourning her lost babies, Wakes also was seeing dramatic behavioral and health changes in her two living children, then ages 18 and 8. For example, her 8-year-old received one school suspension before the water switch, but over 50 after it. Stories like this are abundant in Flint.
Melissa Mays, a leading Flint resident, activist and mother of three, has been faced with trauma in her own family. Two of her boys, Christian, 15, and Cole, 13, have had ongoing physical therapy because their growth plates hardened prematurely due to lead and other heavy metals. Her 19-year-old, Caleb, has irregular thyroid levels, blood pressure and pancreatic function, all attributable to high lead levels.
“My 14-year-old just hit 6 feet and he can’t walk. He’s hunched over, and he had to drop out of sports,” she told me last year.
I spoke with Wakes, Mays and many other residents and experts as part of a six-month investigation into the Flint water crisis. What I found was alarming.
Posted by The NON-Conformist