Study: Flint River water may have caused rashes - WNEM TV 5

Study: Flint River water may have caused rashes

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Federal and state officials report after a multi-part, multi-month investigation, they do not believe the current Flint water is causing hair loss and skin rashes.

However, officials said the water that came from the Flint River before October 2015 may have.

On Feb. 3, 2016, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency teamed up to understand what, if any role Flint’s water played in connection with complaints of skin rashes and hair loss in residents.

An analysis of water quality data from April 2014 to October 2015, when the city’s water supply was sourced from the Flint River, found the pH, chlorine and water hardness levels fluctuated and were at times, higher during that period and might have led to rashes.

Those rashes could have been made worse by mental and physical stress, and changes in personal care routines, according to researchers.

However, while some residents developed rashes after October 2015 and are still experiencing these conditions, the city’s current water supply, sourced from Lake Huron, does not contain metals and minerals at levels known to be associated with skin problems.

In addition, nothing has been identified in the current water supply that could cause hair loss.

Officials noted lead is not known to cause rashes or hair loss.

“The rashes Flint residents have reported are of great concern to the community and to all of us who are working to improve health in the city,” said Dr. Nicole Lurie, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) assistant secretary for preparedness and response who is leading the Obama Administration’s response efforts in Flint. “The team of chemical exposure experts and local dermatologists looked for any and every possible cause of these rashes and found evidence supporting Flint residents’ concern that water from the Flint River might have led to skin problems. Fortunately, water samples from the city’s current water did not show metals and minerals at levels that would cause or make rashes worse. Residents who are still suffering from rashes or hair loss or have other health concerns should visit a doctor or a community health center for care and possible referral to a dermatologist.”

The federal government and State of Michigan will continue to monitor Flint residents’ reports of rashes and hair loss.

That includes CDC officials who will be in Flint starting this week to talk to community members and public health officials about the investigation and what residents should do if they experience these conditions.

Melissa Mays, a mom and Flint water activist, said several residents still show her rashes after bathing in the water.

"I think it's great that they connected past rashes that might be linked to the water, but for the people who are suffering right now with rashes, boils, blisters. I got sent a photo last night from a gentleman who just got out of the shower and he was just broke out," Mays said.

She said her family feels a big difference when they take a shower out of town compared to when they bathe at home.

"There were a few months when we did switch back when it seemed to get better, but recently my sons still break out on their arms. i still break out on my face, my chest, my back. The only relief we find is when we go out of town and shower and it goes away. But when we come back, the rashes come right back," Mays said.

Residents like Mays said they are still looking for more answers about what's causing the skin irritation and hair loss and how they can get relief.

For the full report from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, click here.

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