Study: Flint's contaminated water increased fetal death rates

By Ray Downs  |  Sept. 22, 2017 at 2:06 AM
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Sept. 22 (UPI) -- A University of Kansas study released Wednesday found that the lead-contaminated water in Flint, Mich. caused lower fertility rates and higher infant death rates.

Economics professors David Slusky and Daniel Grossman examined Michigan birth and death certificates in Flint and other Michigan cities of similar size for several years before and after Flint's water became contaminated in April 2014.

They found that fertility rates in Flint decreased by 12 percent and fetal death rates increased by 58 percent.

"This represents a couple hundred fewer children born that otherwise would have been," Slusky said. The study's findings contradict a July 2015 study by the Michigan Department of Health and Human, which concluded that there is no "evidence that indicates the water" in Flint caused higher fetal death rates, reported Mlive.

Although American pharmacists in the early 20th century gave lead pills to women who wanted to have abortions, the science about the effects of lead poisoning on fertility and infant death rates isn't conclusive, according to the University of Kansas.

Slusky and Grossman pointed out that another reason for lower fertility rates could be that people in Flint were more hesitant to have children, due to the water contamination. But by looking at Google Trend data and gauging the level of worry people had about lead poisoning based on how many searches there were about it at the time, the researchers said that's not a likely explanation.

"We find no evidence of avoidance behavior," Slusky said. "Either Flint residents were unable to conceive children, or women were having more miscarriages during this time."

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