Flint rash investigation : a report on findings from case interviews, water testing, and dermatologic screenings for rashes that developed or worsened after October 16, 2015
Published Date:August, 2016
Corporate Authors:Michigan. Department of Health & Human Services. ; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S.) ; United States. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. ; ... More ▼
Description:On April 25, 2014 the City of Flint, Michigan switched its drinking water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River. While the primary focus of public health response to the ensuing Flint Water Crisis has been on the elevated lead levels resulting from the lack of corrosion control, general concerns about overall water quality and whether the water was responsible for skin rashes have been major health concerns of Flint residents.
As part of the federal response to the Flint Water Crisis, the Unified Coordination Group (UCG), a collaboration between local, state and federal health and environmental agencies lead by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), supported an investigation to assess whether Flint water might be associated with the rashes experienced by some community residents.
Dermatitis and rash are general terms referring to inflammation of the top layer of the skin. Skin affected by dermatitis may be red, itchy, scaly and dry. Sometimes fissures or cracks and rarely tiny blisters are present. Dermatitis usually causes some degree of itching, which can be very intense at times and even cause burning and stinging symptoms. Rashes are a common occurrence across the United States. While the incidence of many rashes varies by countries and climates, the prevalence of the most common types of rash, atopic dermatitis is estimated to be up to 20% in school aged children.
Correctly diagnosing rashes is complicated. The cause of most rashes is often multifactorial with many contributing and exacerbating factors, including but not limited to environmental factors (e.g. ambient humidity and temperature), exposure to irritants (e.g. soaps, chemicals) and dryness of skin. Many conditions have a strong seasonal component, with most worsening in the winter (when the heat is turned on and windows are closed) and improving in the summer. Almost all inflammatory skin conditions are exacerbated by stress, both physical (e.g. contact with irritating chemicals) and psychological. Direct contact with water that is hard and/or has high alkalinity, pH and chlorine has been associated in some scientific studies with skin and eye irritation.
The objectives of the rash investigation were to better understand and characterize rash cases; explore possible causes of the rashes and possible associations with the current Flint water supply; and make recommendations for interventions.
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