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What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of…

What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in…

by Mona Hanna-Attisha

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This amazing story is told by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Flint, Michigan pediatrician who forced Flint politicians and bureaucrats to acknowledge, accept responsibility and take action to correct the problem of Flint children being poisoned by lead in their water supply.

Flint, Michigan was a bankrupt city in crises. As a part of the austerity measures, Flint's mayor was reduced to a titular position and a manager was appointed by the state. As part of the move to save money, Flint's water supply was shifted from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Anti-corrosion chemicals to protect the pipes were not added to the new water – either as a further attempt to save money or through ignorance of the requirement.

Although Dr Hanna-Attisha was aware of this, and was also aware of activists' concerns about water quality, she believed the statements by public officials that the water was safe to drink.

But at a family cookout, an old friend of hers presented her with proof that all was not well. And Dr Hanna-Attisha only needed to look at her own pediatric records, with their mandated-by-Medicaid blood lead levels to confirm that all was not well.

This is a fascinating medical detective and political story. It's also a thorough account of the crises in Flint and other former industrial cities and of Dr. Hanna-Attisha's own story of her parents; immigrants who fled Iran.

I was afraid this work would be dry, but I am pleased that it isn't at all. Hanna-Attisha is an engaging storyteller as well as a caring physician with her patients' best interests at heart.

This book will be of interest to not only those with an interest in the Flint water problem or environmental helath, but is recommended to readers who enjoy a story of political and medical intrigue. It's also highly recommended for those who enjoyed [The Ghost Map], a 19th century investigation of water quality. ( )
  streamsong | Nov 13, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha weaves a story that includes the history of Flint, Michigan and her own history. She paints a heartbreaking picture of the impact that lead poisoning can have, particularly on young children, and illuminates the perfect storm of greed, laziness, and systematic disenfranchisement that led to this tragedy. Her story highlights the risks and the toll it can take on the lives of activists, but also serves as a reminder of what is possible and what can be achieved when people are willing to fight on behalf of themselves and their communities.
  arcadia123 | Oct 27, 2018 |
I have wanted to read this book since I first heard of it being written. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is the pediatrician who spearheaded the gathering of data in the Flint Water Crisis. Her patients were the most vulnerable in the population that was effected by the high instance of lead in the public water supply. She fought the powers that be with facts. We cannot say she “won” completely, but the children of Flint have a far better chance to thrive due to her efforts to create interventions for them. Of course they are at high risk for developmental challenges along with physical problems, but the planned interventions will go a long way to changing the curve on that outcome. She is a hero in my book. She did not do this alone and the book highlights many people who worked so hard to represent the interests of Flint residents. Sadly it also points out so many who were willing to look the other way and turn their back on the poorest and neediest of our citizenry.
Dr. Hanna-Attisha presented this book as a memoir. She did a masterful job weaving her ancestral history into her current day activism. She also included a lot about the history of Flint which included GM as it came and then went from that city. The book is well-written, backed up with impressive data collection, and heartfelt from beginning to end. The title comes from a re-phrasing of a DH Lawrence quote. The Eyes Don’t See What the Mind Doesn’t Know…a thought provoking take on trying to assess something that the mind doesn’t yet know exists. I found it fascinating that she picked up this quotation from a professor of diagnostics in medical school. How appropriate for that field.
Original quote: “What the eye doesn’t see and the mind doesn’t know, doesn’t exist.” ( )
  beebeereads | Sep 30, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Government failed Flint, Michigan. In April 2014, Flint changed its water source from treated Detroit system to the Flint River. Officials failed to apply corrosion inhibitors to the water. As a result, there was a serious public health danger. The Flint River water caused lead from aging pipes to leach into the water supply.

The city was crushed when GM closed it's Flint plant in the 1980s. The city was in deep financial trouble in 2011 when the state stepped in to control the local government because of a blooming city budget deficit. The switch of water sources was to save money and the failure to apply corrosion control was a further cost-cutting measure.

There are plenty of sources of information on this crisis. I was interested in What the Eyes Don't See because it is told from the perspective of a whistleblower.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is a pediatrician at Flint's public hospital. She was an employee of the government, calling out the government for its failures. People noticed the poor quality of the water, but the city and state claimed to have run proper tests and found it to be safe.

Dr. Mona talked with an old friend at a cookout and was sent some leaked documents causing her to question whether the water was "safe." She was able to use the hospital blood test data to identify a noticeable spike in patients' blood lead levels after the water supply switch. Then it was a battle against her employer, the city and the state government.

For some criticism, I think the tile of the book and the cover art totally fail to properly convey the message of the book. I failed to notice it the first time it was made available to me by the publisher. At first glance, it seemed like some existential book about hope. Only on a second look did I catch what the book it actually about. The publisher was still nice enough to send me a review copy.

The book offers a great insight in the obstacles of a whistleblower. In this case it was not for financial gain or some battle to be correct. Dr. Mona was doing her job. As a pediatrician, her job was to keep the city's kids healthy. The city was failing. Dr. Mona had doubts about her study. She was attacked by the government, her employer. A Michigan Department of Environmental Quality spokesperson accused her of being an "unfortunate researcher" who was "splicing and dicing numbers."

The book is worth adding to your to-read list.

Originally published: https://www.compliancebuilding.com/2018/06/30/weekend-reading-what-the-eyes-dont... ( )
  dougcornelius | Sep 21, 2018 |
While lead was slowly poisoning the people of Flint, MI, the majority of government officials and public agencies were conveniently ignoring the sad evidence right under their noses. Fortunately, pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha happened upon the truth and couldn't rest until people were held liable and the problem was addressed.

Like many Americans, I was vaguely familiar with the Flint water crisis due to its exposure in the media, but I really had no background knowledge, nor had I particularly made any attempts to follow up on what actually happened in Flint after things came to a head. It's no doubt that lead poisoning is a bad thing, but most of what we hear is in reference to lead-based paint, and once you're aware, you can take reasonable steps to avoid or eliminate those risks. However, if there's lead in your water, that's a whole other ballgame. We, as a modern nation, expect that the higher-ups responsible for public health know what they're doing and trust that they're doing it. But what if they're not? Well, then you have a situation like Flint.

Fortunately for Flint, one particular pediatrician cared enough to push the envelope and confront those responsible. She didn't do it alone, and she didn't do it easily. There was a lot of push back and cover-up, and honestly, probably some ignorance as well. And though it seems as though things are still not quite totally resolved, at least they're on the right track to becoming so.

This is honestly not a book I would've spontaneously picked up, had I not been reading it for book club. But I'm glad I did, because I certainly learned some things, and yes, even though I don't live in Michigan, it does make me think twice about drinking my tap water. The book itself was enlightening and a decent read. There were a lot of personal and familial and cultural stories interweaved throughout the book, and I'm still not quite sure how I feel about that format. While interesting, I'm not convinced it was necessary to this particular story. But regardless, Dr. Mona is certainly a dedicated and caring individual and I would think any child or family would be lucky to have someone like her as their physician. ( )
  indygo88 | Sep 7, 2018 |
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"From the heroic pediatrician who rallied a community and brought the fight for justice to national attention comes a powerful firsthand account of the Flint water crisis--a dramatic story of failed democracy and inspiring citizen advocacy and action. In the heart of the world's wealthiest nation, one hundred thousand people were poisoned by the water supply for two years--with the knowing complicity of their government. Written by the crusading pediatrician who helped turn the crisis into a transformative movement for change, What the Eyes Don't See is a devastating insider chronicle of the Flint water crisis, the signature environmental disaster of our time, and a riveting narrative of personal advocacy. Here is the dramatic story of how Dr. Mona used science to prove Flint kids were exposed to lead, and how she courageously went public with her research and faced a brutal backlash. With persistence and single-minded sense of mission, she spoke truth to power. The book explores the horrific reality of how misguided austerity policies and callous bureaucratic indifference placed an entire city at risk. A medical and scientific thriller, What the Eyes Don't See grapples with our country's history of environmental injustice while telling the inspiring personal story of Dr. Mona--an immigrant, a doctor, and a scientist--whose family roots in social justice activism buoyed her through the fight for justice in Flint. It captures a timely and essential story of how communities can come together to fight for social justice, even in opposition to their own governments"--… (more)

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