More Fetal Deaths, Fewer Pregnancies When Flint Had High Lead Levels in Drinking Water: Study

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There was an increase in fetal deaths and a decrease in pregnancies when Flint, Michigan had high levels of lead in its drinking water, a new study says.

The analysis of 2008 to 2015 health records from the city and 15 other large cities in Michigan showed that fertility rates fell 12 percent among Flint women and fetal death rates rose 58 percent after April 2014, when the city started using the Flint River as a drinking water source, USA Today reported.

The city had been using water supplied by the city of Detroit, but switched to water from the Flint River in order to save money. Anti-corrosives needed to be added to the river water, which led to high lead levels.

The health records also showed that compared to infants born in the other cities, those born in Flint were nearly 150 grams lighter, were born a half-week earlier, and gained 5 grams less per week, according to assistant professors and health economists David Slusky at Kansas University and Daniel Grossman at West Virginia University, USA Today reported.

The findings appear in a working paper and has not yet been peer reviewed by other scientists, Slusky said.

Gov. Rick Snyder and state health and environmental officials did not acknowledge the high lead levels in Flint's drinking water until late September 2015. The city has since switched back to Great Lakes Water Authority-supplied water, USA Today reported.

Fifteen state and local officials have been criminally indicted in connection with the Flint water crisis.

"Flint was a government failure -- enough people have been indicted that there's a reasonable consensus around that," Slusky said, USA Today reported.

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