School-aged children in Flint, Mich. Experienced a measurable drop in their academic performance as the lead crisis set in there, results that are likely due at least as much to “psychosocial effects.” Of the crisis than to lead himself, according to an article published in October.
The people of Flint, a disproportionately black and poor former industrial community, lived on lead-filled water for a year and a half before the extent of the contamination was recognized by government officials at the end of 2015. The city then returned to its old source of water.
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“At first glance, the Flint water crisis may have seemed primarily an environmental health disaster, but we believe our findings show that there is more to the story,” wrote the researchers responsible for the report.
“The complex psychosocial process at the community level that created a crisis surrounding actual lead exposure played an important role in addition to the direct health effects of lead,” they added.
Comparing the academic performance of school-aged children in Flint to those of other districts, the researchers find a 0.14 decrease in the standard deviation of math scores and a 9% increase in the number of students with a special qualified educational need due to the water crisis.
“Math scores at Flint closely follow the comparison districts from 2006 to 2014, but notably drop from 2015,” they wrote.
Notably, however, there is little or no difference in the educational outcomes of Flint’s children, whether they live in homes with lead pipes or with copper pipes, which are safer – although previous research showed that Flint’s children living in homes with lead pipes consumed 4.5 times more lead per day than children living in homes with copper pipes.
This suggests that something less quantifiable than measurable amounts of lead is responsible for the academic challenges of Flint’s children. As the researchers write, “Traumatic events, such as terrorist attacks and natural disasters, are associated with negative psychological consequences for entire communities.”
They cite the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina as events that were followed by “lingering psychological distress and trauma” for residents. .
Additionally, other research suggests that Flint children may grow up “stigmatized” due to being labeled as “poisoned” by journalists, activists and other observers.
Yet the researchers write: “From a policy perspective, our results suggest that existing estimates of the effects of lead exposure on children’s outcomes may dramatically underestimate the overall cost of crises like the one that occurs. is produced at Flint.
Their results also suggest that the dollar amounts currently considered the “costs” of the crisis are significantly lower than reality, they say, since these estimates are based on lead exposure, not psychosocial consequences.
Read more : The victims of the Flint water crisis will receive $ 641 million. Don’t call it ‘justice’