A new study, published in the Journal of Urban Health, reveals that a significant percentage of Flint residents have experienced both financial and health-related effects due to the high lead levels in their drinking water.
This study, which is one of the first to quantify the effects of the water crisis, drew from a longitudinal research study conducted in a hospital’s emergency department. Researchers surveyed a cohort of 133 participants to determine how the high lead levels in the city’s drinking water had affected their lives and the coping strategies they were using to deal with those effects.
Results indicated that 75% of participants had been exposed to lead, and that 75% of these individuals had incurred additional expenses due to this exposure. These expenses included purchasing safe bottled water and filters, as well as gas money to get these items and to drive to doctor’s appointments. In addition to the financial burdens, acute health effects such as digestive issues and skin rashes were reported by 65% of those surveyed, and 40% saw changes in the health of their children.
Nearly all participants reported using positive, active coping mechanisms such as seeking emotional support or trusted advice from neighbors. The fact that positive coping strategies were predominant points to the resiliency of the Flint population.
These results show that children are not the only ones impacted by the Flint water crisis. Vulnerable adults were also affected, and may be in need of aid and attention. Furthermore, policy makers should address the secondary impacts of the crisis along with the water system itself. More studies are needed to fully understand the extent of the socioeconomic, health, and mental health effects of the water crisis on the residents of Flint.
Heard-Garris, N., Roche, J., Carter, P., Abir, M., Walton, M. Zimmerman, M.A., & Cunningham, R. (2017). Voices from Flint: Community Perceptions of the Flint Water Crisis. Journal of Urban Health.doi:10.1007/s11524-017-0152-3