The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, may have reduced fertility rates and increased miscarriages and fetal deaths, according to new research exploring one impact of lead poisoning on the population.

The number of fetal deaths ― pregnancies that lasted longer than 20 weeks but didn’t result in a live birth ― increased 58 percent from 2014 to 2016, when the city had higher amounts of lead in its water, researchers found. The number of live births declined 12 percent.

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Overall, “between 198 and 276 more children would have been born had Flint not enacted the switch in water,” according to the working paper by Daniel Grossman of West Virginia University and David Slusky of the University of Kansas. Using other Michigan cities for comparison, the pair looked at fertility and fetal death rates in Flint before and after the city’s water became contaminated with lead.

“It’s a tragic but unintentionally well-set-up natural experiment,” Slusky said in an interview.


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