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Improperly treated water a probable cause of Flint rashes

Aug 23, 2016

One of the most vivid images of the Flint water crisis was the photograph of the then-two-year-old Sincere Smith. His little face, covered with a rash, was the cover of Time Magazine.

His mother insisted the rash broke out when the water changed to the Flint River, and that it got better once the family moved out of Flint.

The state of Michigan and the federal government have spent the past six months trying to figure out why so many people in Flint, like Sincere, have reported rashes and hair loss.

That report came out today.

Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody joined Stateside to discuss its findings.

“There’s a bit of a difficulty for the people putting together the report,” Carmody said. “They’ve only started studying the rashes since the beginning of this year, so the rashes they were looking at were not necessarily ones that developed while people were using Flint River water, which ended in October.”

He said experts, therefore, had to turn look at data about the quality of Flint’s water at that time.

Many aspects of the water were fluctuating then, including water hardness, pH levels, chlorine levels and more.

“They say there’s a strong probability – not a certainty, but a strong probability – that the rashes that people were developing were related to the water, but they can’t say for sure that the rashes are related to the improperly-treated Flint River water.”

But people in Flint are still finding rashes on their bodies. The origin of those rashes are more easily predicted.

“The experts today said that there’s nothing unusual about the rashes that they’re seeing now,” Carmody said. “They say about three out of ten people will develop an eczema or skin irritation similar to what they’ve been seeing in Flint. They also say that part of the reason why people are still developing rashes could be the stress – the mental stress, the physical stress – that people have had during the water crisis. And also, you have a large number of people who are still not bathing in a regular way and that is a contributing factor for people developing rashes.”

For more, see Carmody's post here.

GUEST

Steve Carmody is Michigan Radio's Mid-Michigan reporter and producer. 

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