A new paper came to a horrifying conclusion about the effect of lead-poisoned water on the fertility of Flint residents.
The fertility rate in Flint, Mich., dropped precipitously after the city decided to switch to lead-poisoned Flint River water in 2014, according to a new working paper.
That decline was primarily driven by what the authors call a “culling of the least healthy fetuses” resulting in a “horrifyingly large” increase in fetal deaths and miscarriages. The paper estimates that among the babies conceived from November 2013 through March 2015, “between 198 and 276 more children would have been born had Flint not enacted the switch in water,” write health economists Daniel Grossman of West Virginia University and David Slusky of Kansas University.
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Grossman and Slusky wanted to know if something similar happened in Flint after lead-poisoned water was introduced in 2014. They compared birth and fetal death rates in Flint with those in other Michigan cities, including Lansing, Grand Rapids, Dearborn and Detroit.
“These areas provide a natural control group for Flint in that they are economically similar areas and, with the exception of the change in water supply, followed similar trends in fertility and birth outcomes over this time period,” the authors say.
What they found... was “a substantial decrease in fertility rates in Flint for births conceived around October 2013, which persisted through the end of 2015. Flint switched its water source in April 2014, meaning these births would have been exposed to this new water for a substantial period in utero (i.e., at least one trimester).”