The state of Michigan, and the community of Flint in particular, know all too well the dangers of lead poisoning. Over 8,000 Flint children were exposed to lead-contaminated water during the town’s lead crisis.
Our state’s obsolete water infrastructure and older buildings mean children across the state are at a similar risk of lead exposure at all times, with a significant threat lurking where children congregate most – our schools.
Lead is toxic to the neurological system and is particularly dangerous for children, which has a significant impact on their lifelong learning and development. It is so harmful that no level of exposure is safe or acceptable. Once a child is exposed to lead, that child can be treated, but the damage cannot be reversed.
Based on the age of most of our schools and our state’s overall infrastructure, we know that lead is a hazard to children across the state. It’s in our schools’ pipes, water fountains and in the joints of their plumbing systems. While some protective measures are in place, Flint’s experience shows that protective coatings fail – and exposure is not a matter of if but when.
Rather than wait for the next major crisis, the Michigan Nurses Association is calling for proactive measures that will ensure the health of our children by eliminating the possibility of lead exposure in school drinking water.
This can be achieved by passing âFilter Firstâ legislation introduced by the Sense State. Jim Ananich (D-Flint) and Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington). Their bill, Senate Bills 184 and 185, will ensure that lead is filtered from all drinking water sources in Michigan schools and daycares by installing water fountains with filters and ensuring that that tap filters be used at food preparation sites and other areas where water coolers are impractical.
In addition to installing the filtered water fountains, the bills require schools and daycares to test their water annually to verify that new units are working properly and replace filters as needed. They also make grants available through the Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy to all public schools as well as daycares in low-income communities to cover the cost of additional requirements in bills. .
Protecting our students is an investment, not only in infrastructure and our health, but in the long-term prospects of our state. Safe and healthy students turn into productive adults who fuel our workforce and our economy. That’s why Senator Jon Bumstead (R-Newaygo) included $ 85 million for the Filter First program in his recently introduced supplementary water budget allocation.
The students returned to class this fall. Every additional day that passes without a filter on their water puts hundreds of thousands of children at risk of lead exposure. Lawmakers must act now. Join me in urging Michigan lawmakers to stay ahead of our children by passing the Filter First bills as well as the $ 85 million funding proposal.
Take the lead out of our school’s drinking water. Pass Senate Bills 184 and 185 today and make sure there is funding to keep our children safe.
Larissa Miller is Associate Executive Director of Nursing and Government Affairs, Michigan Nurses Association.