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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Rash Study in Flint

In February 2016, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services requested assistance from the Centers for Disease Control/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registries (CDC/ATSDR) to help investigate complaints from Flint residents about rashes and hair loss. The investigation drew on expertise from MDHHS, CDC/ATSDR, EPA, MDEQ, and local dermatologists.

Many people saw dermatologists who volunteered as part of this study. Information from these visits helped the investigation team understand more about the rashes and hair loss Flint residents were experiencing. Most of the rashes were a skin condition called eczema. The investigation team also analyzed water samples taken from study participants’ homes and historical data from the Flint water treatment plant. They found that in Flint’s water between February and May 2016, the chlorine, water hardness, certain metals, and pH were not at levels that would cause skin problems. They also found that when the city was using water from the Flint River, there were large swings in chlorine, pH and hardness. These swings are one possible explanation for the eczema-related rashes, although it’s not possible to say for certain because there were no data available for chlorine, water hardness, certain metals, and pH from people’s homes prior to 2016.

While some rashes may go away on their own without any treatment, others can be hard to get rid of without proper treatment. It’s important to see a doctor about a rash if you have one. The dermatologists in Flint also said that stress makes almost all skin problems worse, and their patients reported a lot more stress since the Flint water crisis. 

  • This page last reviewed: August 31, 2016