Pharmacies Rally for Flint's Water Crisis

Several pharmacy chains are lending a helping hand to Flint, Michigan, where residents have been exposed to dangerous lead levels in their drinking water.

Several pharmacy chains are lending a helping hand to Flint, Michigan, where residents have been exposed to dangerous lead levels in their drinking water.

Back in 2014, Flint switched its water source to the Flint River, which elevated lead levels. The city and county health departments issued a health advisory, and in January 2015, Michigan declared a state of emergency.

The National Guard was called in to help distribute water and filters, and the city transferred back to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. However, the city’s website says the lead levels are still “well above” the federal action level of 15 parts per billion in many homes.

One way in which pharmacists in Flint can help is to remind patients that they cannot simply boil water, as this process does not remove lead. Residents must use a NSF-certified water filter specifically designed to remove lead.

On a broader level, several pharmacy companies have been actively helping out Flint residents.

Walgreens spokesman James W. Graham told Pharmacy Times that the company donated a shipment of 18 pallets of bottled water (with 1 pallet containing 1728 bottles of water) to a nonprofit called Rainbow/PUSH so that they could distribute the water to local organizations assisting Flint.

“Additionally, we have been supporting students in the area by donating bottles of water to them, as well as to the Flint Food Bank,” Graham said.

SpartanNash has also contributed to the Flint cause.

Between January 23, 2016, and February 13, 2016, customers at 91 Michigan D&W, Family Fare, VG’s, ValuLand, and Forest Hills Foods stores and Fuel Centers were encouraged to donate $2.99 toward a 24-pack of Spartan bottled water. Spartan said it would give 100% of the proceeds toward water donations and deliver the water to a food bank in Michigan.

In addition, the company said its employees were pitching in and donating at the company’s Michigan headquarters.

“We have been working since last fall to help our neighbors in Flint. Michiganders take pride in their state and watch out for each other,” stated SpartanNash spokeswoman Meredith Gremel in a press release. “We have had customers and associates asking us how they can help and send water with our donations. With the scan, we make it easy and even do the heavy lifting. We also deliver as needed to facilitate distribution for our community partners.”

Another company pitching in for Flint residents is the Hy-Vee grocery chain.

Hy-Vee was inspired by Iowa State basketball player Monte Morris, who put out a call through Twitter to donate to the Red Cross to help his hometown of Flint, KCRG reported. When Hy-Vee saw the tweet, the company decided to send 11 truckloads of water to the city in honor of Morris’ jersey number.

“It brought a lot of tears to my eyes because nobody wants their city to be like that,” Morris told KCRG. “It's just hard to talk about.”

Pharmacists can educate patients on some of the symptoms of lead poisoning in children, especially those younger than 6 years because they are more vulnerable. Parents should keep an eye out for developmental delays, learning difficulties, irritability, loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain, and vomiting.

Lead poisoning in adults may present in the following ways: high blood pressure, abdominal pain, constipation, joint pain, memory loss, miscarriage or premature birth, or abnormal sperm, according to the Mayo Clinic.