It took one brave doctor to expose the Flint water crisis. Here’s how | Innovation
IT’S the morning of 24 September 2015, and Mona Hanna-Attisha is hours away from the biggest moment of her scientific career. Then her phone rings. As she recalls in her new book, it was a representative from her medical school at Michigan State University, calling to say the institution wasn’t in a position to support her in what she was about to do. “I felt like I was being thrown under a bus,” she says.
Hanna-Attisha was about to go public with some controversial and horrifying evidence: that the children in Flint, Michigan, were being poisoned by lead in the drinking water. Her revelation went against the state, the scientific consensus – and now her university.
Just a month or so earlier, Hanna-Attisha had been urging the children in her care to drink the water in place of unhealthy sugary drinks – she felt it was her duty as an associate professor at MSU’s College of Medicine in Flint and a paediatrician in the city’s Hurley Medical Center. What had changed?
Concerns had been growing about Flint’s water supply for well over a year. When car giant General Motors (GM), founded in Flint, began downsizing its operations there in 1978, the city’s economy went into a long decline. In April 2014, as a money-saving measure, the city stopped buying its water supply from nearby Detroit, opting instead to pull water from the Flint river. It wasn’t long before locals began to complain that the water smelled and tasted bad.
By early 2015 the Flint authorities admitted …