Researchers Find Flint Had Drop in Births, Spike in Fetal Deaths During Water Crisis

A study of Flint, MI finds a drop in pregnancies and a big rise in fetal deaths compared to other cities in the state.

Bre’Anna Tinsley/WDET

A new study finds a significant drop in pregnancies in Flint during the time residents there were exposed to lead in the city’s water supply.

The study also finds a larger number of fetal deaths in Flint during that time compared to other Michigan cities.

The study examined vital statistics for Michigan cities from 2008 to 2015.


Flint’s water became tainted with lead in 2014 when it switched to using river water that had not been properly treated to prevent corrosion in lead pipes.

“It’s a really pronounced decrease in fertility rates. This is obviously a very bad thing.” — West Virginia University Assistant Professor Daniel Grossman

Courtesy of PBS

A co-author of the study, West Virginia University Assistant Professor Daniel Grossman, says birth statistics remained steady during that time for most Michigan cities.

But he says Flint saw fertility rates drop by 12 percent and fetal death rates spike by almost 60 percent.

“It’s a really pronounced decrease in fertility rates. This is obviously a very bad thing,” Grossman says.

Michigan officials, including Gov. Rick Snyder, did not acknowledge that there was a problem with Flint’s water supply until the autumn of 2015.

That was after researchers and a pediatrician raised concerns about rising lead levels in the blood of the city’s children.

Bre’Anna Tinsley/WDET

Grossman says lead is known to cause severe damage to young children.

“A long time ago, in the early 20th century, pharmacists would actually sell women lead pills to get rid of unwanted pregnancies,” Grossman notes.

He says he began to research the vital statistics in Flint as a way to show how much government officials had cost residents there when the city switched water supplies in an effort to save money.

Flint returned to the Detroit water system in late 2015. 


  • Quinn Klinefelter
    Quinn Klinefelter is a Senior News Editor at 101.9 WDET. In 1996, he was literally on top of the news when he interviewed then-Senator Bob Dole about his presidential campaign and stepped on his feet.