Flint — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the 9,000 children in Flint under age 6 should have their blood tested for potential lead poisoning after some water tests showed lead levels in the city’s water may exceed the capacity of faucet filters, a federal health official said Thursday.
“That’s a lot of kids to test,” said Dr. Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Lurie, the top federal official working in Flint on the city’s water contamination crisis, said Thursday that pregnant women and children under age 6 living in homes with unfiltered water that have high levels of lead should drink bottled water “until you know that the (lead) level is lower.”
“All children in Flint, 6 and under, should have their blood leads tested before April 1, and that’s a really an important message for parents in Flint — please get your child tested,” Lurie said.
Federal and state health officials also held a press conference Thursday afternoon in Flint to detail follow-up water studies conducted this week in some of the 26 homes where lead levels in unfiltered water exceeded the 150 parts per billion rated capacity of water filters. Water with lead levels exceeding 15 parts per billion is deemed unsafe for human consumption.
The U.S. Environmental Agency retested filtered and unfiltered water in eight of the 26 homes this week and found just one home had lead exceeding 2 parts per billion when a faucet filter was properly used, said Mark Durno, a Flint coordinator for the EPA.
“It gives us a little bit of a data that the filters are doing their job,” Durno told reporters. “We’re confident that the filters work, and we’re comfortable with the filters are higher levels, but we still recommend that sensitive populations — women, children age 6 or under ... drink bottled water.”
Federal officials had been alarmed just a week ago by water samples of unfiltered water from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality that suggested Flint’s lead contamination in parts of the city was stronger than residential faucet filters can handle.
Durno said that EPA workers first sample filtered water, then remove the faucet filter to get an unfiltered sample and then change the filter’s cartridge to get another sample to compare to the first.
Citywide testing of random homes in Flint will continue for the foreseeable future to monitor whether filters are working properly, Durno said.
“We are very encouraged by those results,” said Durno, acknowledging that the tests in eight houses is a small fraction of Flint’s 33,000 homes.
Laurie said federal health officials would continue to work with state and local officials to solve the city’s lead contamination problems.
“I know people in Flint just want to see this problem fixed and fixed fast and everybody just wants to get on with life,” Lurie said. “So do we.”