Researchers: Flint's fertility rates fell, fetal death rates climbed during water crisis

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FLINT (WJRT) (9/20/2017) - A study authored by two economics professors shows Flint's fertility rate fell while the fetal death rate increased since the advent of the water emergency in 2014.

David Slusky, assistant professor of economics at the University of Kansas, and Daniel Grossman, assistant professor of economics at West Virginia University, authored the study looking at child birth data dating back to 2014.

A press release issued by the University of Kansas News Service on Wednesday details the findings in the study.

Slosky and Grossman compared birth and death certificates issued in Flint and comparable cities before and after the city's water supply was switched to the Flint River in April 2014.

Their data shows fertility rates decreased by 12 percent among Flint women and fetal death rates increased by 58 percent. The overall health of Flint children at birth decreased, as well, compared with children from other Michigan cities, according to the press release.

"This represents a couple hundred fewer children born that otherwise would have been," Slusky said.

The researchers noted that the American Time Use Survey doesn't show any decrease in sexual activity since 2014. However, the birth and fertility rates still decreased in Flint compared with the other Michigan cities.

"We find no evidence of avoidance behavior," Slusky said. "Either Flint residents were unable to conceive children or women were having more miscarriages during this time."

To demonstrate the danger of lead to developing fetuses, the researchers pointed out pharmacists in the early 20th Century passed out lead pills to women hoping to induce a miscarriage, the press release says.

Anecdotally, the researchers also found included a higher ratio of girls born in Flint since 2014 and there is medical evidence that male fetuses are more fragile.

Of the children who were born since 2014, the lead-tainted water appeared to have an effect on their early lives. The researchers found a 5 percent decline in average birth weight of babies born in Flint compared with other Michigan children after accounting for potential selection effects where lead caused the mothers with the smallest fetuses to miscarry or have stillbirths.

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