“We began not to sleep,” Iraqi-American pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha told CNN.
Hanna-Attisha is the director of pediatric residency at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan. When she learned that Flint had high levels of lead in its drinking water, her team examined local hospital records and concluded that the city’s children suffered from elevated lead levels in their blood.
“There is no safe level of lead in a child,” Hanna-Attisha said. She knew she had to act. “My duty as a physician is to make sure those kids have the brightest future ahead of them,” she told the Oakland Press. “It’s our role to be their advocates and be their voices.”
Leveraging the power of a free press to inform the public and pressure government officials, Hanna-Attisha held a press conference to spread the word. State officials initially questioned her findings, but the strength of her evidence and the spreading publicity convinced them otherwise.
It turned out that when Flint changed its water supplier, the new water caused pipes to corrode, releasing lead into the water.
Due in large part to Hanna-Attisha’s efforts, Flint is back to its original water source. Federal, state and local officials are working together to bring clean water to city residents.
Now Hanna-Attisha is part of grass-roots efforts to raise money to treat children affected by the lead.
“If there was ever a time to invest in our children, it is now,” she said. “Our Flint children deserve every opportunity to be healthy and successful.”