Medical society advises pregnant women, children in Flint to drink bottled water

by Roberta Acosta, originally posted on June 29, 2016


FLINT, MI – The Genesee County Medical Society is advising pregnant women and children under 6 in Flint to continue drinking bottled water until further lead testing is done on the city’s drinking water system.

The advice comes days after the Environmental Protection Agency advised children and pregnant women could drink water after results from testing over the past two months at nearly all of the 50 sites considered to be at an elevated risk for lead came in below 1 part per billion.

“We wanted to make sure that the information was accurate, appropriate, and most importantly took into consideration the safety of Flint residents,” said Dr. Pino Colone, president of the Genesee County Medical Society.

Some of the data that’s come out was before residents were asked to flush their systems in May to push water through the system that may have sat stagnant and remove any potential lead particles in the pipes, Colone said.

Given the timing of the testing and release of information from the EPA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the society concluded “it is important to have the residential water tested again to make sure that no lead sediment was dislodged in the pipes leading to a residence” that could lead to a spike in lead levels.

Colone, Speaker of the Michigan State Medical Society House of Delegates and emergency physician at Henry Ford Health System’s West Bloomfield Hospital, said once the additional testing is completed and shows low lead levels after the flushing was completed, they would agree with the federal recommendation.

“Our intention was not to counter what the EPA put out,” he said, adding “We just wanted to make sure our population fully understands what is safe, what is not safe, and how to appropriately approach the water.”

A statement from the EPA urges the use of filters as an effective method of removing lead when properly used and installed by residents.

“Since the Flint Emergency Response efforts began in January 2016, EPA has conducted extensive outreach on filters to include installing the devices in homes, distributing thousands of fact sheets with installation instructions, canvassing neighborhoods and public locations, and hosting open houses with live filter installation demonstrations,” reads the statement.

GST Michigan Works is recruiting and set to hire local residents as filter education liaisons through a U.S. Department of Labor grant, which the EPA said “will play a critical role in ensuring that Flint residents continue to receive guidance on proper filter usage and safeguards that protect against lead-contaminated water.”

Safety for residents includes proper filter use, flushing out aerators that may have collected lead particles during the flushing program, according to a statement from the medical society, as well as understanding filters don’t remove legionella or other microorganisms and recommending those at high risk continue to use bottled water for drinking, cooking, and brushing teeth.

“There is a great concern for the return of legionella,” said Colone, of the summer months, pointing out the disease is spread not through drinking water by through mists from items such as air conditioning units or showers.

He stated the county medical society was one of the first to sign off on Flint Mayor Karen Weaver’s push for a state of emergency in January that was followed by the state and federal emergency in Flint that’s led to officials on the ground in the city to evaluate the situation.

“We will always be part of the solution for keeping the people of Flint safe,” said Colone.


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