Review of What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City by Mona Hanna-Attisha Rating *****
This book is living proof that one person can make a difference. Had it not been for the dogged persistence of Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a national health crisis may have been allowed to continue unabated.
There are so many lessons to be learned from this story. It touches on a wide array of themes: immigration, politics, science, environmental issues, poverty, race, and much more.
Author Mona Hanna-Attisha is a pediatrician. She had heard second-hand of problems with the drinking water in Flint, Michigan. It wasn’t until she noticed a spike in lead levels of children under her care that alarm bells starting going off. Those early warning signs set her on a mission to not only identify the source of the high levels of lead in children’s blood tests but also to suggest what course of action to take to help alleviate the problem.
The response to the crisis by those in a position to make the necessary changes was appalling. Almost everyone failed the people of Flint. This failure included the EPA, the water regulating agency, local officials, and Governor Rick Snyder. In some cases, their failures involved fraud and misinformation. Even after blood tests confirmed high lead levels, government officials resisted suggested changes, disputed scientific findings, and went out of their way to discredit the work of Dr. Hanna-Attisha. Why? Certainly, the cost of fixing the problem was an issue. There is, however, no excuse to put money over the health of citizens.
Flint is not alone in dealing with lead in drinking water. Just recently, health officials discovered high blood levels in the children of Newark New Jersey. The same problem afflicted the citizens of Washington, D.C. The issue of lead contamination in drinking water can occur almost anywhere where lead pipes carry water, which is the case in many older communities across the country.
The officials who caused and ignored the problem faced civil and criminal charges. But other than losing their jobs, no one has been held accountable.
Don’t buy the argument that it is possible to protect the environment while also reducing regulations. Polluters will always put profits over environmental protections.