New research from the University of Kansas found that the above-average concentrations of lead in the drinking water of the city of Flint, Mich., are associated with a sharp decline in fertility rates after just a year since the water became contaminated.
The lower fertility rate translated into a rise in miscarriages and fetal deaths. Researchers estimate that up to 276 more babies would have been delivered if the municipality hadn’t switched to another public water supply in 2014.
Study authors underlined that a plethora of studies have shown the negative effects of lead exposure on infants’ health. These effects include brain damage, impaired cognitive function, and damage to liver and kidneys.
Even though the effects of lead exposure on unborn babies haven’t been as thoroughly researched, a 2013 paper suggests that high concentration of lead in the expecting mother’s body can lead to the baby’s death.
A 58% Jump in Fetal Mortality Rates
In Flint, the fetal mortality rate jumped 58 percent between 2014 and 2015. Yet, the number may be considerably higher since it doesn’t include miscarriages before 20 weeks, abortions, and the reporting was done by healthcare facilities, with many of cases going unreported.
Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency deemed the lead levels in Flint’s water safe, even though the concentrations surpassed those in Detroit by three times. Researchers agree that there is no consensus on how much lead drinking water should contain to be considered safe to drink, so the EPA’s assessment may be inaccurate.
According to some experts, the drop in the fertility rate in Flint may be caused by other factors such as other types of contaminants in the drinking water. What’s more, according to 2016 Census numbers, Flint is America’s poorest city, with 55 percent of its population living under poverty line, and 53 percent being black.
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