If you follow the news, you have surely heard that there’s a water crisis in Flint, Michigan. There’s actually a water crisis around this country (in terms of chemical contaminants in the water, the most ubiquitous of which is lead), but the city of Flint is in an especially horrible predicament – in which all of the children (and adults for that matter) who live there have been exposed to horrendously high levels of lead since their water system was switched from Detroit water to the Flint River in April of 2014. Many of the children in the community have been officially lead poisoned already, and additional huge numbers (of those already tested) have been shown to have highly “elevated levels” of lead in their blood.
While this is not the first time a government agency has intentionally downplayed or dismissed the severity of this sort of problem (allowing lead in water levels to be “off-the-charts”—while publicly reporting something quite different to the community served) it is – however – the first such major water crisis (as evidenced by the accompanying media frenzy) since we (LSAF) have become a well-known and established nonprofit.
As a result of this timing, we have gotten messages, phone calls and social media inquires and posts from many… asking what Lead Safe America can do to help with this crisis.
Given the enormous scope and magnitude of the concern it may seem like there’s very little we [any of us, really] can do; as a low-budget nonprofit based in Portland, Oregon. However, we have been engaged and doing everything we can think of that is within our power — and we have also been asking for (and will continue to ask for) input for other ways we can help.
After reading below, please do let us know if you have other ideas of how we might be able to help these families and this town.
What we have come up with so far:
First and foremost, we have reached out to parents of Flint, Michigan via social media – and luckily have connected with a few of the most vocal parent-advocates there, including LeeAnne Walters. We have started adding these parents to our existing “secret” support group for parents of lead poisoned children on Facebook – so we can help them be part of a safe space for a dialogue about the issue, especially in their search for solutions to protect their children and keep them safe, now that this crisis has become public. If you know ANY parents in Flint – please tell them about our support group and invite them to join us there. (They need to just send us an email first – at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Parents in Flint and throughout Michigan have (as may be expected) developed a new urgent sense of concern for the dangers of childhood lead exposure—and the need to identify all possible sources in our children’s environments, and take effective steps to eliminate them. As a result, since the public announcements of the crisis, Lead Safe America has gotten an unprecedented number of requests from parents for free lead paint test kits. In recent months we have sent more than 5,000 lead-paint test kits to Michigan – including many to families in or near Flint. This is a resource we have (thanks to the very generous support of 3M) – so while it may seem tangential to the waterborne lead issue, the body burden of lead is cumulative, AND providing free lead-paint test kits to these families has been helping to forward the conversation for protecting children from lead in their environment in Flint.
We’ve reached out to Michael Moore (again! 🙂 ) – no luck there yet, but as he is both from Flint [and I am from Saginaw, Michigan originally], and we are both documentary film makers – we felt there might be an opportunity for an expanded conversation for action around this issue. We have not gotten through to him yet, but understand he has been touching bases with some of the local parent advocates in Flint on his own – so that’s a start. [Any networking leads and/or introductions are welcome.]
Through our parent support network (which currently includes nearly 400 parents of lead poisoned children from around the country and the world), we have also offered that Lead Safe America can officially be an umbrella organization for any special projects local Flint parent-advocates have in mind to help move the issue (and the solutions) forward more quickly [i.e. as an umbrella organization, we would be able to legally accept and distribute tax-deductible donations on their behalf and help them budget and administer their project costs]. There are several informal neighborhood groups and associations that have sprung up pretty quickly in Flint around this issue – and we are offering them a (virtual) place to come together and formalize some of their projects and ideas. One of the ideas Flint parent-advocates would like to help fund and orchestrate is comprehensive/extensive independent third party water testing in areas that have not yet been tested. While we have not yet formalized this initiative, if you want to make a designated gift in support of helping the families and parent-advocates of Flint (where your tax-deductible contributions will be earmarked and ONLY be used for this purpose explicitly) to fund the work of these neighborhood groups and associations, increasing awareness and helping to come up with solutions for these families… click HERE.)
Additionally we have spoken (so far only informally) with community leaders and parent advocates in Flint about bringing a Lead Safe America community outreach event to the families of Flint, perhaps several events over several consecutive days… offering (if we can) free instant blood lead testing (using the LeadCareII), free water testing (no sponsor lined up yet, but a few potential ones), free XRF / consumer goods testing, free preview screenings of our educational documentary film, community panel discussions (with lead experts) on the subject of childhood lead poisoning and what parents of lead poisoned children can expect and need to prepare for moving forward (with free childcare available to families with young children.) Since this is what we are good at and have a history of success with – we are hoping to find funding to help make this happen sooner (January 2016/February 2016) rather than later.
As with everything related to lead we have been aggressively sharing any and all stories about the Flint water crisis via our social media networks (Twitter and Facebook primarily.) Lead Safe America is first and foremost an advocacy organization and the most effective advocacy starts with educating parents and sharing information.
Finally, we have been talking to folks in the national news media about the issue (helping them behind the scenes pull together information and interviews to support their articles and news pieces as we often do), and posting related links and studies (as they are published) that can help arm parents in Flint (and elsewhere) with information to support their conversations with politicians and policy makers.
Do you have ideas of how we can help? If so, please let us know. A dialogue in the comments of this post would be a great place to start.
In this last little 30+ hour stretch of 2015 we came up with one idea that will at least generate a little more awareness. Given we have always seen a lot of enthusiasm and participation in our regular free online raffles, and considering that this is a water issue, we asked our sponsor CertifiedKit.com to donate 10 of their water testing kits [merely a small gesture aimed at raising awareness—not by any means intended as any sort of solution to this huge problem!] to our end-of-year free raffle.
To enter to win one of these water testing kits (which will be mailed to the winners next week) we are asking people to share articles and posts about the Flint, Michigan water crisis on their Facebook profiles and Twitter feeds – a “social media blitz” if you will.
Once folks have shared a post they can link to post they have shared (on their Facebook wall or Twitter profile) here in the comments of this post, and everyone who posts a comment on this post (with a link to their share) that they have shared about the Flint Water Crisis, will be entered to win one of these water test kits from CertifiedKit.com. Each post you share and link below will get you one chance to win one of the ten kits that have been donated.
Winners will also have the option of us sending out the kit they win to a family in Flint – if they opt not to test their own water supply at home (or in their child’s school). Winners will be drawn from this free drawing (nothing else required to enter—just a post on your page with a link to that post in a comment here!) at 9 pm PST on 12/31 (Tomorrow, Thursday – New Year’s Eve.) So please take a few moments out of your day and post and link and share today and tomorrow – in solidarity with the families of Flint and the crisis they are experiencing.
Let’s see if we can generate a new level of awareness as we ring in the new year.
Personally I have trouble celebrating when an entire town in Michigan has been poisoned.
This should not be happening—in 21st-Century America!
Mother of Lead Poisoned Children
Executive Director, Lead Safe America
Lead Safe America Foundation
Here’s a link with several stories about the crisis in Flint that you may want to watch and share.
How to enter our free end-of-year raffle to win one of ten test kits (for lead in water) from CertifiedKit.com
- Find a story about the lead-in-water issue in flint (see link HERE for some ideas or find your own)
- Copy the story link and share it on your Facebook home page or on Twitter
- Copy the link to the profile and/or post where you shared it
- Past the copied link here/ below in the comments on this post.*
(If you can work a hashtag or two into your post that would be terrific… we’re suggesting: #StandWithFlint, #FlintWaterCrisis & #FlintWater! (Thanks for the nudge, Sandy!))
That’s it… you are then entered to win a Lead-In-Water test kit from CertifiedKit.com!
(*Note: posts will be verified as winners are chosen)