Experts Available to Discuss Water Contamination in Flint, Michigan

University of Riverside researchers comment on the lead contamination and related public health crisis

A photo of water coming out of a tap

Tap water from the Flint River became contaminated with toxic levels of lead.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( – In a cost-cutting measure almost two years ago, the state of Michigan switched the city of Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. This ultimately caused lead from pipes and fixtures to begin leaching into the water supply, posing serious health concerns, particularly the risk of lead poisoning in children.

The following experts at the University of California, Riverside are available to discuss the ongoing environmental crisis. Media may use the quotes below or contact the researchers for interview opportunities.


Andrew Subica, assistant professor of social medicine and population health
(951) 827-6050

A health services researcher, Subica’s research addresses the intersection of health and mental health disparities among vulnerable populations including persons of color, survivors of trauma, individuals experiencing homelessness, and refugees.

He notes that the Flint, Mich., toxic water crisis is “a public health tragedy that has likely placed many community residents, particularly young children, on a course of lifelong poor mental and physical health. Because lead poisoning has permanent effects on health, most negatively by harming development of the brain and nervous system in children, an entire generation of Flint residents may suffer serious medical as well as mental health problems because of this crisis. Unfortunately, research suggests this water crisis is not an isolated incident of poor public policies endangering the health of residents living in economically distressed communities.”

Carl Cranor, distinguished professor of philosophy
(951) 827-2353

Carl Cranor is known globally for his research on the regulation of toxic substances, the ethics of risk, and the philosophy of law and science. His work has changed how scientific testimony is addressed in court cases as well as aspects of regulation in California. He serves on the Scientific Guidance Panel of the California Environmental Contaminant Biomonitoring Program. The panel plays a significant role in the California Biomonitoring Program, making recommendations about the program’s design and implementation — including the identification of chemicals that are a priority for monitoring in California — and providing scientific peer review. He previously served on three other state science advisory panels.

Cranor addresses the issue of lead poisoning in his book “Legally Poisoned: How the Law Puts Us at Risk from Toxicants.” “Lead toxicity has no known safe level according to human studies, and this would be especially true for children,” he says.

Haizhou Liu, assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering
(951) 827-2076

Haizhou Liu and his group’s research addresses the interconnections between water infrastructure and quality. Topics of particular interest include the occurrence and transformation of toxic metals and metalloids in drinking water.

He notes that the lead release crisis in Flint, Mich. is closely associated with the switch of water sources for the city, which ultimately caused the corrosion of lead-containing materials in water pipes and distribution systems. “Water pipes are like dynamic chemical reactors that respond to different types of water flowing through them. When the water source is changed, the chemical composition is alternated accordingly. In the case of Flint, Mich., this change likely accelerated the corrosion and leaching of lead from the distribution system. This crisis highlights the urgency to understand the relationship between water chemistry and distribution system behavior.”

Ashaunta Anderson, assistant professor of pediatrics
(951) 827-6050

Ashaunta Anderson, MD, MPH, is an assistant professor of pediatrics and a researcher in the UCR School of Medicine’s Center for Healthy Communities. She is also a health policy researcher for the RAND Corporation.

She is a coauthor of a book, “50 Studies Every Pediatrician Should Know,” to be published this year, which covers 50 landmark studies that have directed current pediatric practice. Anderson authored the chapter on the neurological and developmental effects of high blood lead levels in children. In the chapter, she notes that “Childhood exposure to lead, even at low levels without symptoms, had important long-lasting negative effects on behavioral and academic outcomes. Clinicians and public health officials are alerted to the importance of detecting and preventing lead toxicity early in life.”

Other points the chapter makes are:
• Meta-analyses of the literature consistently demonstrate a negative effect of lead—even low lead levels—on academic outcomes
• Behavioral problems have also been linked to childhood lead exposure (for e.g., preschoolers with low-level lead exposure had more behavioral problems than those with no exposure; and 11-year-old boys with higher bone lead levels had more antisocial and delinquent behavior)
• Low-level lead exposure during the prenatal and neonatal periods may exert a negative effect on infant neurobehavioral development
• It is best to screen child lead levels at age 1 year and again at the typical peak exposure at 2 years of age

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