By Dasha Matthews
Mona Hanna-Attisha is a first generation Iraqi immigrant, pediatrician, and public health advocate whose research exposed the Flint Water Crisis, revealing that children were being exposed to dangerous levels of lead in Flint, Michigan. Her research began after speaking with a friend who was a former employee for the Environmental Protection Agency in the Ground Water and Drinking Water Department. He told her that his team of Flint Water Study researchers found high levels of lead in Flint residents’ homes. After learning of this Dr. Hanna-Attisha began conducting her own research. Even though she was not provided the data she sought from the state of Michigan, she used hospital electronic medical records as data for her study.
On September 24, 2015, Dr. Hanna-Attisha revealed in a press conference at Hurley Medical Center that children’s lead levels doubled after the water was switched from the Detroit River to the Flint River in April of 2014. At the press conference she urged residents, particularly children, to stop drinking the water, to end Flint River as a water source as soon as possible, and urged the city of Flint to issue a health advisory. A day after Dr. Hanna-Attisha released her study, Flint issued a health advisory that suggested residents minimize exposure to Flint tap water. The water source was switched back to the Detroit river on October 16, 2015. Later, the city of Flint, the state of Michigan and the United States made emergency declarations.
Hanna-Attisha’s role in exposing the Flint Water Crisis has been broadcasted nationwide with appearances on CNN, The New York Times, and other media outlets. She also gave a TEDMED talk, entitled “Flint’s Fight for America’s Children” on November 1, 2016. She was also named by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in 2016, stating, “Edwards and Hanna-Attisha were right, they were brave, and they were insistent. Flint is still a crime scene, but these two caring, tough researchers are the detectives who cracked the case.”