Inspired by the Flint Water Crisis, This 11 Year-Old Invented a Device to Detect Lead in Drinking Water
While Flint’s water crisis has fallen out of the public news cycle, its residents are still living with the aftermath of an estimated 40 percent of homes that drank and bathed in dangerously lead-polluted water. It took several years, in which residents—including children—were turning up with mysterious rashes and other illnesses—before national attention to the crisis forced the city to admit it had a problem.
The city of Flint disconnected from Detroit’s water line as a cost-cutting measure and began to draw water from the Flint River in April 2014. Soon after, shockingly high levels of lead were found in the city's water supply.
Sacramento resident Sandra Levario said her grandson loved to play in her backyard as a toddler. Levario’s house lies in the shadow of a now-shuttered gun range. Despite its closure in 2014 and the fact that toxic levels of lead dust had coated nearly every surface of the building for years, the public was not informed of the lead hazard. But after her grandson developed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Levario suspected a connection to lead poisoning. “Now I won’t let my grandkids even play in the yard.”
In the 21st century, our industrialized system has stripped the human element from the most basic human needs. Food, air, and water—these things are elemental, required by all life. Yet the molecules that sustain us are too often consigned to the footnotes of our life story.
But few people read the footnotes until their lives depend upon it. Unless they’re black or poor. Or they live in Flint, Michigan, with brackish, brownish water pouring out of their taps. Imagine, for just one minute, learning that you fed your baby formula with water that was tainted by lead, and that it may be years before symptoms manifest.