How The Flint Water Crisis May Have Affected Fertility Levels

Photographed by Ashley Armitage.
Nearly 3 years after the Flint water crisis began, researchers have found in a new study that the water contamination may have affected fertility levels in the city.
According to the study, Flint saw fewer pregnancies as well as a higher number of fetal deaths compared to other Michigan cities during the time that women and their unborn children were exposed to high levels of lead in drinking water.
Since 2014, Flint has faced a major public health crisis. The city's residents were exposed to toxic drinking water especially dangerous to children and pregnant women, and it took until December 2015 for officials to declare a state of emergency in the city.
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For the study, researchers reviewed health records from Flint and the state in the years before the water crisis, and the years after its usage of contaminated water beginning in April 2014. They found that fertility rates decreased by 12% among women in Flint, and fetal death rates increased by 58%.
"This represents a couple hundred fewer children born that otherwise would have been," David Slusky, assistant professor of economics and one of the researchers of the study, said in a press release.
Since the researchers did not find a decrease in sexual activity in the years they examined, they believe that "either Flint residents were unable to conceive children, or women were having more miscarriages during this time."
According to the CDC, lead exposure in pregnant women is associated with a higher risk of miscarriage and can cause a baby to be born prematurely. The study, researchers said, will hopefully caution governments to be more proactive in helping to ensure water safety for their citizens.
"In the future we would like to have a government that is more responsive and more active in ensuring that the water that comes out of people's taps is safe," Slusky said in the statement.
Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking about or passing on kids, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it's time we talked about it that way.
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