Economics of public safety

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Science  12 Feb 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6274, pp. 641
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf4014

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By now, the tragic saga of the lead-contaminated drinking water in Flint, Michigan, is well known. Unlike some disasters, this one was not inevitable, and there were many warning signs that could have halted it much sooner. In the developed world, citizens have come to trust that basic public services such as water, power, and sanitation will be provided, for a fee, safely and reliably. Therefore, Flint is not just a nightmare for its 100,000 residents, because it causes all citizens to question whether public officials, who are entrusted with providing essential services, have health and welfare in mind. With criminal investigation of the Flint crisis now under way, my focus is not on assigning blame but on how to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again.