Monthly Archives: September 2017

Flint’s lead-poisoned water had a ‘horrifyingly large’ effect on fetal deaths, study finds

By Christopher Ingraham

Flint resident LaFonzo Williams, 19, prays on Jan. 14, 2016, in Lansing, Mich., amid more than 150 Flint and Detroit resident before heading into the state Capitol to protest Gov. Rick Snyder, asking for his resignation and arrest in relation to Flint’s water crisis. (Jake May/Flint Journal-MLive.com via Associated Press)

The fertility rate in Flint, Mich., dropped precipitously after the city decided to switch to lead-poisoned Flint River water in 2014, according to a new working paper.

That decline was primarily driven by what the authors call a “culling of the least healthy fetuses” resulting in a “horrifyingly large” increase in fetal deaths and miscarriages. The paper estimates that among the babies conceived from November 2013 through March 2015, “between 198 and 276 more children would have been born had Flint not enacted the switch in water,” write health economists Daniel Grossman of West Virginia University and David Slusky of Kansas University.

In April 2014, Flint decided to draw its public water supply from the Flint River, a temporary measure intended to save costs while the city worked on a permanent pipeline project to Lake Huron. Residents immediately began complaining about the odor and appearance of the water, but well into 2015 the city was still assuring residents that the water was safe to drink.

Subsequent testing by Flint authorities and outside agencies turned up lead levels that in some cases were dozens or hundreds times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s safety threshold. A September 2015 study showed that the proportion of Flint children with high lead levels in their blood had roughly doubled after the water change. The city finally switched back to Lake Huron water in October 2015.

The harmful effects of lead exposure on children’s health are well-documented. They include cognitive deficiencies, …read more

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How poor, decaying Gary, Ind., is fighting to win Amazon’s heart

By Danielle Paquette

An empty house in Gary, Ind. (Jim Young/Reuters)

Karen Freeman-Wilson knows her city is in trouble.

About a third of people in Gary, Ind., live in poverty. A fifth of buildings are vacant or abandoned. Potholes and trash mar the streets — the budget has little room for regular upkeep.

So, Freeman-Wilson, who grew up here and became the city’s first female mayor five years ago, penned an open letter to a man she believes could help revive Gary: Jeffrey P. Bezos, chief executive of Amazon.com.

Bezos had recently announced he was looking for a place to open the technology giant’s second headquarters — a move the company says would bring up to 50,000 jobs that pay an average annual salary of $100,000.

Freeman-Wilson thought: Why not Gary?

She appealed to Bezos in the voice of her city, spending nearly $10,000 to publish the words as an advertisement this week in the New York Times.

“I know locating to me may seem far-fetched,” she wrote. “But far-fetched is what we do in America. It was far-fetched for 13 scrawny American colonies to succeed against the might of the British Empire.”

Amazon, based in Seattle, says it plans to pour $5 billion into building and running the new location, to be named Amazon HQ2.

“We expect HQ2 to be a full equal to our Seattle headquarters,” Bezos said in a statement. “Amazon HQ2 will bring billions of dollars in up-front and ongoing investments, and tens of thousands of high-paying jobs.” (Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)

The company is collecting proposals from government leaders — Chicago, Boston, Austin and New York City are already lining up — and says it wants to break ground in an area with a university, more than 1 million people and easy access to an international airport.

Freeman-Wilson argued Gary has all these things. The city’s …read more

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