News Feature | May 20, 2016

Top Scientist: Ruffalo Should Be 'Ashamed' Over Flint Claims

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,
@sarmje

ruffalo.reg

A celebrity water activist may be muddying the waters when it comes to spreading clear information about the safety of water in Flint, MI.

A top scientist who helped uncover the lead-contamination crisis in Flint says Hollywood star Mark Ruffalo is spreading misinformation.

Ruffalo works on behalf of Water Defense, a nonprofit devoted to clean water as a human right. The nonprofit has reportedly been telling Flint residents that it is potentially unsafe to bathe in their water, according to The Huffington Post.

Marc Edwards, a civil engineering professor at Virginia Tech, is calling out that claim as nonsense, and arguing that this message may be a threat to public health.

“I have moms calling me saying that because of this group they are not letting their children take baths or wash their hands,” Edwards told The Huffington Post.

“Amidst the heightened fears of water safety in Flint and the State of Michigan, there has now been a spike in gastrointestinal illness predominantly among school age children — the most common cause for this problem, by far, is a lack of proper bathing, showering and handwashing,” Edwards wrote in a blog post.

But Ruffalo is skeptical of any official encouragement to use the water in Flint.

“Where the problem really lies is: not the EPA, nor the state of Michigan, nor Dr. Mona, nor Marc Edwards can tell the people of Flint it’s safe to bathe in that water,” Ruffalo told CNN. “We haven’t done enough study.”

He pointed to disinfection byproducts (DBPs) as an ongoing threat in the Flint water supply.

Edwards sounded off on Ruffalo’s claims in a blog post: “Ruffalo’s absurd hypothesis that DBPs in Flint could be coming from ‘corroded lead’ or ‘galvanized iron,’ defies basic laws of physics and chemistry. Indeed, we do know where DBPs come from — they do not come from corroded pipe.”

He added that Ruffalo and the nonprofit are adding confusion to the already challenging situation in Flint.

“Clearly, false and unsubstantiated claims about water safety, can hurt innocent people, just like shouting ‘Fire’ in a crowded movie theatre. Mr. Ruffalo and Water Defense should be ashamed of themselves. Flint residents currently need funding and moral support — not pseudoscience and false alarms,” he wrote.

For all of our Flint and lead contamination coverage visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Contaminant Removal Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Mark Ruffalo," Gage Skidmore © 2014, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/