Writer Faye Flam of Bloomberg View reached out to FIU Stempel College’s Dean Tomás R. Guilarte regarding the Flint, Michigan water crisis and lead toxicity. Here is an excerpt of that article:
Lead is absorbed by the brain because the body mistakes it for necessary elements—zinc and calcium—said neuroscientist Tomás Guilarte. Once there, lead interferes with the mechanism of learning—a series of changes involving the brain’s delicate system of chemical signaling and growth of new neurons.
In experiments on lab rats, he said, they found that the best countermeasure to lead exposure is not a chemical strategy. What helped was exercise and stimulation—from toys and other challenges. In a study of children exposed to lead in Mexico, he said, adding an enriched learning environment was beneficial. This could amount to going to museums, art and music lessons and physical exercise, he said, exactly the things that wealthy kids will get from their parents if not provided at school.
Guilarte says that just getting bottled water to Flint isn’t enough. Without extra help, kids there, whether sickened or not, could suffer long-term consequences from the months they drank contaminated water before the problem came to light. Enriched learning is the least the country owes them in compensation.