Researchers look for connection between Flint water crisis, infant deaths

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Updated: Jul. 11, 2017 at 4:36 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WNEM) - Flint’s troubled waters continue to represent problems for those living in the city.

Every day is a struggle as thousands still can’t drink from their faucets or cook with their water.

More than just the hassle of having to live on bottled water, new studies may show the water crisis has had an even more devastating effect.

Researchers now question whether Flint’s tainted water may be responsible for an increase in the city’s infant mortality rate. If true, it would be just another grim and devastating consequence to add to the list.

“African American infant mortality rate has usually been two to three times higher than the white infant mortality rate, especially in Flint,” said Dr. Gary Johnson, medical director for the Genesee County Health Department.

Right now, Genesee County’s infant mortality rate is the second-highest in the state next to Wayne County.

In 2015, the year after the switch to the Flint River as the city’s water source, 43 children died before they reached the age of one.

“Something we’re still looking into to see if there’s any connection,” Johnson said.

He said infant mortality rates have historically been higher in Genesee County, but he confirmed the health department is looking into the role the water crisis could have played.

“Sometimes a particular year may not show a good correlation, but it’s best to do a four-year correlation, a five-year correlation to see where the trends are going,” Johnson said.

While more research is needed to prove a connection, there are clear factors that impact infant deaths.

“Don’t smoke. Stop smoking because you can produce a premature baby and we know that prematurity is a factor,” Johnson said.

Johnson said expectant mothers can control some of the risks by keeping their stress levels down and eating nutritious foods.