The Flint water crisis investigation has generated no little amount of attention and press coverage. To answer many of the questions surrounding the investigation, it’s always a good idea to start with the facts — and I know the facts, because I was a part of the investigation.

Why investigate?

For starters, thousands of children were exposed to lead poisoning, an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease resulted in the deaths of at least twelve people, and virtually everyone in the City of Flint was exposed to contaminated water. To this day, in the summer of 2019, many residents of Flint still only use bottled water to drink, to cook and to bathe. If that is not a cause for opening up an investigation, then what is? The investigation begun by then Attorney General Bill Schuette was the only ongoing investigation of what went wrong in Flint.

More: All Flint water crisis criminal charges dismissed by attorney general’s office — for now

Brian Dickerson: Six questions for new prosecutor in Flint water probe

Why go outside the AG’s office?

Schuette had publicly stated he wanted to conduct the Flint investigation through the auspices of the Department of the Attorney General. But the department had already begun a vigorous defense of the State of Michigan against civil claims that had been brought because of the water contamination.

As a result, when Schuette asked for lawyers within the office to pursue the case, the department’s own Ethics Officer ruled that that was not possible, due to a conflict of interest. The lawyers and investigators already employed in the office had had the opportunity to review materials and information the State was using to defend itself against outside claims. Thus, they could not then retroactively cross over a conflict of interest wall and serve as prosecutors. As a result, Schuette had no choice but to go outside the department to conduct the investigation.

How the Flint water crisis set students back

When the Flint water crisis took place in 2014 and 2015, one of my graduate nursing students decided to get involved.

Having already worked with me in the Greater Toledo area to screen children at risk for , my student helped conduct blood lead level screenings of the children exposed to the water. Test results later showed that the number of lead poisoned children in Flint had doubled after the crisis.

Since that time, some have worried that children in Flint are suffering academic setbacks as a result of being exposed to high levels of lead in Flint’s water supply.

State officials advised that as many as 9,000 children under the age of 6 in Flint be treated as having been exposed to high levels of lead after the city’s drinking water supply was switched in 2014 from water from Lake Huron to water from the Flint River.

Others, however, have pushed back, arguing that Flint’s water crisis is not the culprit behind any academic losses. Certainly lead was a problem for children in Flint long before the water problems.

But as a nursing professor and parent educator who specializesin treating children with elevated lead levels, I believe that just like in Detroit—where lead poisoned children have suffered academic setbacks after being exposed to lead, mostly from lead paint in their homes – similar academic setbacks are likely taking place in Flint.