XIII Foreword In the summer of 2015, a 4-month-old named Nakala came to the pediatric clinic with her mom for a checkup. Like all pediatricians, I followed the usual routine: We look in ears, noses, and throats. We listen to hearts, lungs, and tummies. We make sure kids are ­ eating well, growing, and developing. We vaccinate them to protect them from bad diseases. And most importantly, we try our best to listen to parents and answer their questions. So much of our privileged work as pediatricians is not as much about caring for the child in front of us today (although we love doing that) as it is about making sure children have the healthiest and brightest future possible. Our work is nestled in prevention and promise. At that clinic visit, Nakala’s mom said that she wanted to stop breastfeeding. I shared the many benefits of breast- feeding and urged her to continue. She had to go back to work, she said, and pumping was near impossible as a waitress. She planned to switch to powdered formula mixed with water but had some concerns. “Is the water all right?” she, looking skeptical, asked me. “I heard things.” The water. I’d been asked about it before. It had been over a year since Flint’s water source had been changed from the Great Lakes to the local Flint River to save money. Although there were concerns in the local media about color, odor, taste, and even bacteria in the water, they were always met with repeated reassurances by multi- ple levels of government—by officials and experts charged with keeping us, especially our children, healthy and safe. Standing there, with my white coat and doctor’s confi- dence, I nodded without hesitation. “The tap water is just fine,” I told Nakala’s mom. But I was wrong about that. Despite years of medical training and a background in environmental health, I had
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