Many Americans are familiar with the atrocities in Flint, Michigan. Flint received nationwide coverage when it was revealed that residents were being restricted access to clean water and were exposed to water contaminated with lead for many years. After the state discovered the lead, the residents were left with the contaminated water and still have it years later.
I have watched many documentaries on Flint like "Here's to Flint" and "Fahrenheit 11/9." The scenes from the documentaries are haunting and much resemble a war-torn, third world country. I was especially surprised when I received a letter in the mail from Chicago's Department of Water Management. The letter looked like nothing special and had been placed in a pile of junk mail that none of my roommate's wanted to read. I eventually went through the mail and was shocked at what I read. The letter casually says that my home uses a water meter and water meters activate lead in pipes.
It continued to say that most homes in Chicago test under the U.S. EPA's benchmark level for lead in drinking, however, 17.2% percent exceed it.
As a pregnant woman, this is horrifying news. I had been pregnant for months drinking and cooking with contaminated water before reading this letter. Drinking water contaminated with lead has long term effects for the whole family. For example, it affects the brain and nervous system development in children and increases the risks of things like kidney damage and high blood pressure in adults. The CDC itself says that there is no known safe level of lead in a child's blood.
I especially remember a scene in "Fahrenheit 11/9" where they talk about the effects lead has on the babies born to pregnant women who consumed it. It can cause miscarriages and stillbirths. There are pregnancy complications like low birth weight, premature delivery, preeclampsia.
Babies whose mother consumed lead water have been reported to have behavioral problems, lower IQs, and learning disabilities.
My own home soon resembled that of a developing country. I had stacks and stacks of water bottles. I have to use these bottles for everything. Just like residents of Flint, I have to brush my teeth with water bottles. I have to go through about five water bottles to boil water to cook. If I am out of water bottles, I just have to wait it out because the alternative is not worth it.
Having to worry about lead in the water is very stressful. Along with all the other stresses of pregnancy, I have to stress about accidentally poisoning my baby. I know that I have to take precautions in my own home, but am unsure where else is contaminated. I don't know where is safe. I don't know who else received the same letter I did, but ignored it as junk mail.
I recently had a house guest stay from another state. He asked why our water had an odd smell. I had to casually tell him not to mind that, it's just the lead in our water. I find it very disheartening that the city, state, and country don't prioritize the health and safety of its pregnant women, babies, or children. It is sincerely unfortunate how things like access to clean drinking water in America are just a luxury.