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Saturday, May 9, 2020

Book Review: Poisoned Water: How the Citizens of Flint, Michigan, Fought for Their Lives and Warned the Nation by Candy J Cooper, Marc Aronson

I truly didn't understand the Flint water crisis until This Old House explained the crux of it to me very simply a couple of years ago (gist: when the water was switched from the lake to the river, the protective additive wasn't added and the river water removed all of the protective coating from the interior of the lead pipes. This is why simply switching the water source back doesn't solve anything. The water might be cleaner at origination, but all the lead pipes now have to be replaced, period.) Since then I've been pretty fascinated, from a comforting remove. But this sort of boneheaded short-term cost-cutting happens everywhere and could happen anywhere. It happened this year, the exact same problem, in Newark, New Jersey, right here in my county.

This book explains to teens what's happened. Teens are very interested in the environment, and this crisis in particular has hit children especially harshly. Elevated lead levels in children shave off IQ points forever. While the authors are not local, they did a ton of on-the-ground research, including talking to local children, from kids who spend their entire weekends picking up cases of water and lugging them home, to children with permanent health problems, to young adults who had to move away to get away from the bad water. The complicitness of all the governmental officials who had to look the other way is infuriating, and the few whistle blowers who spoke up despite great pressure not to, are real heroes. This problem isn't over. It won't be for decades. And it can happen again, when people turn a blind eye to the outcome of looking the other way when the disadvantaged are mowed over.

This book is published by Bloomsbury, a publisher distributed by Macmillan, my employer.

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