A new study that reviewed health records from Flint, Michigan has revealed that women who were exposed to the high levels of led in the city’s drinking water suffered from fertility issues.
In a report from the Detroit Free Press, fertility rates dropped by 12 percent among women in Flint, while fetal death rates rose by 58 percent after April 2014, according to research conducted by assistant professors and health economists David Slusky (Kansas University) and Daniel Grossman (West Virginia University).
The post-2014 percentage is important. considering it was around that time that the city switched from water supplied by the city of Detroit to using the Flint River as a drinking water source, without adding needed anti-corrosives to the water, to save money. In the Kansas study, Flint’s birth and fetal death data was compared to similar data from 15 other large Michigan cities, including Detroit, with Slusky concluding that “Flint’s numbers fell off a cliff, and the rest of the cities stayed pretty much constant” after 2014.
“We weren’t particularly surprised by this, but we didn’t expect it be as clean and clear as it was,” he said.
Research from both Slusky and Grossman also revealed “that the sex ratio of babies born in Flint skewed slightly more female following the water change,” and “Babies born in Flint were also nearly 150 grams lighter than in other areas, were born a half-week earlier and gained 5 grams per week less than babies in other areas examined over the time period.”
There is no safe level of lead in the body but previous reports from researchers have said the impacts of lead are considered most severe on the developing brains and nervous systems of children and fetuses, with lead contributing to lower intelligence, behavorial problems, and much more.
The paper has yet to be peer reviewed by other scientists but Slusky hopes the research informs policy-makers on the severity of the Flint water crisis.
“Flint was a government failure — enough people have been indicted that there’s a reasonable consensus around that,” he said. “We know monitoring the water, and putting the right types of anti-corrosives in it, is not free, is not cheap. Now I’ve told you what the cost of not doing something is, and what the benefit is. That’s the hope of this kind of research; quantify the benefit.”