New Study Says Flint Water Crisis Increased Fetal Deaths, Lowered Fertility Rates

The Flint water crisis has been a popular subject for the media in recent years, with a great deal of focus on just how the water crisis has impacted nearby residents.  Published in September 2017, a new study claims that the Flint water crisis increased fetal deaths while lowering fertility rates among families living in affected areas.  Research on the long-term effects of the Flint water crisis are now casting even greater focus on the damage done, how to preserve life and health in the future and how to prevent related infant deaths.

The Flint Water Crisis: Background and Review

The Flint water crisis officially began in 2014 when, in an effort to cut costs, the Flint River was used as a water source while a new pipeline was being constructed between Lake Huron and Flint.  Looking back, however, the events leading up to the catastrophic crisis we know as the “Flint water crisis” began much earlier.

The Flint River had not been used as a primary water source since 1967, partially due to the fact that the Flint River has historically been known to contain contaminants and bacteria that is potentially dangerous for human consumption.  In 2001, a massive cleanup effort was initiated with the hopes of removing contaminants across the Flint River watershed.  Over the next few years, a series of “boil water advisories” were issued as fecal coliform (E.  coli) and other disease-causing bacteria were found in various parts of the water supply.

The response to fecal coliforms was increased use of chlorine to treat and flush the water system.  Eventually, in 2014, General Motors, whose largest plan in the U.S.  is housed in Flint, stopped using the city’s water supply over concerns that high chlorine levels would corrode engine parts.  By 2015, the city had begun issuing warnings to residents about byproducts of disinfectants used to treat the water being ingested, including the potential for increased cancer risk.  The state had found Flint’s water supply to be far above the threshold set by the Safe Drinking Water Act in terms of disinfectant chemicals in the water.

While cleanup efforts seemed to initially help, it was noted that the Department of Environmental Quality had failed to treat the Flint River with anti-corrosive agents, which is a violation of federal law.  Failure to treat the water resulted in toxic levels of lead seeping into the pipes and service lines, which contaminated the city’s water supply.  Further, the city of Flint declined to reconnect the Lake Huron water supply, even though the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) offered to waive a $4 million reconnection fee.

Has the Flint Water Crisis Increased the Rate of Fetal Deaths?

The study mentioned earlier in this article was conducted by two economic professors at the University of Kansas.  In contrast to previous reports, this new research suggested that the rate of fetal deaths increased by 58 percent after the water crisis began.  Fertility rates were estimated to have dropped 12 percent among women living in Flint, Michigan.  Numerous reports already indicated a clear correlation between the contaminated water and increased illness among families living in the area, but the rate of fetal deaths had not been adequately identified.

To reach the conclusions in the new study, researchers analyzed birth and death certificates from before and after the water crisis began.  Further reinforcing the damage done by contamination, researchers also noted disparities in overall health of children living in Flint after the water crisis began, particularly in comparison to children in other parts of the state.

Flint Water Supply Contamination Caused Illness and Death

Prior research showed that the number of children with elevated or unhealthy lead levels at pediatrician visits had nearly tripled after the water supply was switched to the Flint River.  It has also been reported that an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease (attributed to the contaminated water supply) killed 12 people.

Many readers may remember the ACLU becoming involved after complaints were filed with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over sediment found in tap water and children suffering from rashes and other mysterious illnesses.  In 2015, it was discovered that the drinking water in some homes contained lead levels as much as seven times greater than the EPA limit (15 parts per billion, or ppb).  Also in 2015, scientists at Virginia Tech reported drinking water samples contained as much as 13,2000 ppb, which is staggering since the EPA considers 5,000 ppb as “hazardous waste”.

Fighting for Legal Rights and Justice for Those Harmed

Since the transition from Lake Huron to the Flint River, the series of illnesses, deaths, lead contamination and ongoing research suggesting problems like an increase in fetal deaths have sparked numerous lawsuits.  Some lawsuits have been focused on individuals, while others have targeted the city of Flint and organizations related to the water crisis.  There have also been several class-action lawsuits.  What is consistent among the different types of lawsuits filed is the fact that negligence on the part of officials and agencies related to the transition, upkeep, cleaning, and maintenance of the water supply, is heralded as the cause for the catastrophe.

With research now suggesting even greater harm caused by the water crisis, more people than ever are turning their attention toward preservation of legal rights and the fight for justice for the families harmed by actions and decisions outside their control.

An increasing number of fetal deaths and childhood illnesses is terrifying, and you have the right to be informed about how best to keep you and your family safe.  If you have been harmed by the negligence of someone else and questions about your legal rights, or what your options are to pursue justice, contact Birth Injury Guide today by completing our online form.

Meagan Cline

Written By Meagan Cline

Meagan Cline is a professional legal researcher and writer. She lends her expertise to the team at Birth Injury Guide to provide up-to-date and relevant content that clients can count on.