The old saying goes, “As goes General Motors, so goes the nation.” But when the automotive giant left Flint, Michigan, in the latter half of the 20th century, the once-great industrial city was left without jobs, deeply in debt and polluted, culminating in a water crisis that has drawn national outcry.

The city’s water, once sourced from Lake Huron via the city of Detroit, was switched to the Flint River under the advisement of an emergency city manager, appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder, in April 2014. Shortly thereafter, residents began to complain that their tap water was now brown, smelling and tasting different, and resulting in health issues including rashes. It turned out that the corrosive waters of the Flint River had worn away the protective build-up in Flint’s lead pipes, and the tap water was now contaminated. That meant that the people drinking and using the water now faced poisonous blood lead levels: a citywide increase that more than doubled among young children, and in some neighborhoods, nearly tripled, according to a study in the February issue of APHA’s American Journal of Public Health.

To continue reading this story from the April 2016 issue of The Nation’s Health, visit the newspaper online.