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Once upon a time lead was everywhere. It was in our gas tanks, on our walls, and in our pantry.

A scientist named Clair Patterson, attempting to calculate the age of the Earth, made the extraneous discovery that our environment was becoming overly leaded. The amount of lead was so high, it was distorting his findings and he was unable to obtain accurate readings.

His concerns over lead levels were met with caution and concern from fellow scientists. When he challenged the lead industry however, he was met with far worse, and his career nearly ruined as a result.

I’m sure Flint pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards can relate. Their cries to government officials about Flint lead levels were met with dismissals, skepticism and scorn. They’ve since been vindicated.

Lead is a proven neurotoxin. The effects are most severe for children as their cognitive development is greatly and adversely impacted. The long-term ramifications of the Flint crisis are difficult to measure. Physical and mental development varies greatly from child to child. Measuring baselines and progress in a year let alone a decade will be challenging.

One thing is certain; ignoring scientists is detrimental to our public health. The corrosive nature of the Flint River is multifaceted and stems from deicing roads, industrial abuse and aging infrastructure

The lasting costs from the Flint fiasco will dwarf the amount of money this administration attempted to save by switching water sources. This further highlights the cost of inaction. In Michigan, our roads are in such disrepair, they pose a public danger. Calls to boil water before use are met with annoyance rather than concern.

A Chinese proverb says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now.” Action is needed now; acting later will be far too big a burden to bear. Yet this is exactly what has been proposed.

Unlike government, before scientific hypothesis becomes the prevailing theory or law, it’s peer reviewed and vetted.

With politicians failing at their basic duty, subservient to the demands of industry and wealthy donors, we are left wondering, who’s protecting our interests?

Detroit public school students, teachers and parents must be gravely concerned awaiting legislative decisions on debt and future funding. We hear over and over government is too small or too big. No, government is failing its primary obligation, providing security. Security includes safe water, safe roads and safe schools now and for generations to come. The people have had enough.

Bashar Salame is a Detroit-based writer, lecturer and chiropractor.

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