Flint, Lead, Communities of Color, and Health Equity
The Campaign for Dental Health has been tracking the safe drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan since water fluoridation advocates sounded the alarm in early 2015. At that time, environmental activist Erin Brockovich wrote a post on Facebook that questioned the use of funds to fluoridate the city’s water. (Brockovich has consistently but wrongly impugned the safety and effectiveness of fluoridation.)
In an August 8, 2017 Health Affairs blog post, Emily A. Benfer cited the contamination of the Flint water supply as just one example of the burden that communities of color bear in higher rates of lead poisoning. Contaminated Childhood: The Chronic Lead Poisoning Of Low-Income Children And Communities Of Color In The United States details decades-long discriminatory practices in federal housing policy that have resulted in systematic over-exposure of low-income, Black, and Hispanic citizens to lead. Generations have been adversely affected by water, paint, dust, and soil polluted with dangerous contaminants.
The Campaign for Dental Health works to raise awareness of how the social determinants of health impact oral health and champions efforts to address oral health disparities. As we have so often pointed out, in order to be healthy, children need healthy teeth. The same structural inequities that result in high rates of lead poisoning, asthma, and obesity result in high rates of tooth decay. Each of these is epidemic in proportion. That is why we agree with Benfer and others who have called out lead as an environmental, racial, social, and health justice issue. We know how to prevent them. Let’s stand behind the political will to do so.