Doctor who discovered Flint kids' lead increase says there is hope

The kids call her Dr. Mona. The pediatrician whose research revealed that Flint's children were being poisoned.

- The Flint water crisis is making international headlines as the National Guard is called in to the city to help.

FOX 2 spoke with the doctor  who brought this whole water crisis to the world's attention.

The kids call her Dr. Mona - she is the pediatrician whose research revealed that Flint's children were being poisoned. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is the first to admit the situation is still very serious but says that there is still hope.

"We can mitigate this, we can't eliminate this," she said. "But we can lessen the impact of this exposure."

Exposure to lead - something almost the entire population of Flint has experienced since the city, under state emergency management, switched from Detroit's water supply to the Flint River in April of 2014.

"Corrosive water going with no corrosion control going into an aging old infrastructure with a lot of lead plumbing was a perfect storm for lead to come," Attisha said.

Out of that plumbing into the water and into the bodies of children. Children including babies in utero, infants, none of whom should be exposed to any lead - ever.

"Lead is a known neurotoxin - it's an irreversible, potent neurotoxin," Attish said. "The CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, repeatedly say that there is no safe level of lead in a child - you should never have lead in a child."

And yet Dr. Mona Hannah-Attisha's research showed Flint's children with two to three times the level of lead in their blood after switching to Flint water - the impact of which could be severe.

"We freak out about lead because of its impact on cognition and behavior," she said. "It drops your IQ. There is no safe level of lead, so imagine what we've done to our entire population. We've shifted that IQ curve down. We've lost these high achievers, these kids with IQs over 130. This next kid who's going to invent a cure for cancer.

"And now we have a whole bunch more kids who need remedial services, special education services so the impact on cognition can potentially be great."

And lead exposure impacts behavior as well, causing attention deficit, hyperactivity and conduct disorders.

But the doctor says there is hope.

"We definitely want to reassure families that not every kid is going to have all these problems and that there are things that can be done now," she said.

Attish says see your doctor and get a blood test, monitor for developmental delays, and know that nutrition can make a big difference in your child's health if he or she has been exposed.

"A diet high in iron calcium and vitamin c, can help promote the excretion and limit the absorption of lead," she said. "So getting great healthy diets is a great thing."

Three things the doctor says parents should incorporate - she said dairy for calcium, citrus for vitamin c and meat and iron fortified cereals for iron.


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