UN Special Rapporteurs Appeal to US to Prioritize Right to Safe Drinking Water




3 March 2016: A group of UN Special Rapporteurs has appealed to the US Government to take wide-ranging actions to address the risk of poisoning from lead-contaminated drinking water, citing existing UN human rights standards. The group of UN experts on hazardous wastes, health, water and sanitation, indigenous peoples, minorities and racism described the issue of contaminated water as one of human rights, and urged the US to protect the rights of those most at risk from pollution and toxic chemicals.


US President Barack Obama has declared a Federal state of emergency in the city of Flint, Michigan, where the population is receiving Federal distribution of bottled water and filters after high levels of lead were discovered in the city's water supply.


On 18 February, US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced US$500,000 in emergency funding for two area health centers to respond to the crisis, including blood tests to monitor lead levels, particularly in children and pregnant women, as well as case management, education and outreach services in the affected community.


The UN joint appeal was made by the Working Group of experts on people of African descent, and six Special Rapporteurs with respective responsibility for the areas of: human rights in relation to the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes; the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation; the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; the rights of indigenous peoples; minority issues; and contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.



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