Flint children’s baby teeth to be examined for lead

The Flint Journal

Flint – A pediatrician and public health expert says about 100 baby teeth from Flint children will be evaluated to determine lead exposure, nearly six years after the city’s drinking water was contaminated after a switch to a new source.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha helped end the city’s use of river water in 2015 when her study revealed that the percentage of Flint infants and children with above-average lead levels had nearly doubled citywide and almost tripled among children in “high risk” areas of lead exposure.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha

She said the parents of children who were in the womb during the summer of 2014 should also preserve their kids’ baby teeth for possible future testing.

“The kids who were at most high risk largely haven’t lost their teeth yet. … We plan to keep collecting teeth. This is long-term work,” Hanna-Attisha told MLive/The Flint Journal on Monday, a day after an episode featuring her work aired on the CBS program “60 Minutes.”

The segment highlighted the Flint water crisis and the response. Among the responses included the preliminary findings of neuropsychological examinations of 174 Flint children that showed that 80% of them will need help for language, learning or intellectual disorders.

Lead from old pipes tainted Flint’s drinking water after the city switched to a new source in 2014 without treating the water to reduce corrosion. The switch was also linked to a deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak.

State regulators were accused of ignoring residents’ grievances and evidence of lead. Flint returned to a regional water system in the fall of 2015.

Dr. Manish Arora, of New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, developed the method of assessing baby teeth, according to the television news program. The teeth are tested to examine growth rings that reveal anything the child was exposed to, including water.

“A laser cuts through the tooth to analyze whether lead is embedded in the growth rings of teeth,” the program reports.

Parents can salvage their children’s baby teeth by keeping them in a bag with the child’s name and date that the tooth or teeth came out, Hanna-Attisha said.

The study isn’t accepting more teeth beyond those it has already collected, but the study could be expanded in the future.