The Flint River. (Sarah Rice/Getty Images)

Regarding the Feb. 7 front-page article “Many in Flint wish to leave but can’t”:

The situation in Flint, Mich., is unconscionable. It would not have happened if the city had followed the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead and Copper Rule and used standard practices when changing water supplies, and if Michigan had carried followed the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The EPA has taken some flak for its regional office’s inaction. But the EPA should get credit for the major nationwide reduction in lead exposure when it eliminated leaded gasoline, the dominant source of lead exposure, years ago. The average lead blood level for children was 16 micrograms per deciliter in 1976.

A recent report from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services indicated that 3.4 percent of the child blood measurements in Flint were greater than 5 micrograms per deciliter, and 0.6 percent were greater than 10 micrograms per deciliter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculates that fewer than 2.5 percent of U.S. children between ages 1 and 5 exceed 5 micrograms, its reference level. It recommends medical treatment at 45 micrograms per deciliter.

The major remaining cause of high blood lead levels is exposure to lead paint. The EPA deserves credit for drastic reductions in lead exposure.

Joseph A. Cotruvo, Washington

The writer was director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking water standards division from 1976 to 1990.