Since April 2014, when Flint, Michigan began using the Flint River as its water supply in an effort to save money, its residents claim they have been plagued with problems resulting from the quality of the water. The city began to use the alternative water source, but failed to add chemicals to prevent pipe corrosion that caused lead to leach into the water system, reports The New York Times.
Persistent complaints of rashes, itchiness, and hair loss have caused the citizens of Flint to find other methods of bathing rather than using the local water. The city has switched back to using Detroit water in October, but the water problems are not yet resolved.
Government scientists have not found evidence that the city’s lead-tainted water is unsafe for bathing, but skin problems persist. Dr. Nicole Lurie, an assistant secretary at the United States Department of Health and Human Services is coordinating a federal recovery effort with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to investigate if the skin problems are a result of the water quality, according to the Times.
Investigators have talked to 538 people who complained of skin problems. Of those, 388 qualified for a study as they had an active rash even after the city water was switched back to the Detroit source. Dr. Walter Barkey is one of four local dermatologists evaluating rashes. He found 70 percent of the people examined appeared to have eczematous dermatitis, a type of rash that may be caused by irritants or allergens.
Residents of Flint have taken to joining gyms to use their bathing facilities, mothers are using bottled water to bathe their infants, people are going to hotels, friends and family outside of Flint to bathe, the Times reports.