Umbilical Cord Blood Lead Level Disparities between Flint and Detroit

Mona Hanna-Attisha, Ashweena Gonuguntla, Nadine Peart, Jenny Lachance, D. Kay Taylor, Sanjay Chawla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective  The lead-in-water impact of the Flint water crisis on the youngest and most neurodevelopmentally vulnerable population was largely unknown. The objective of this study was to investigate and compare cord blood lead levels (CBLLs) in newborns in Flint, Michigan, after the Flint water crisis, to a group of Detroit newborns. Study Design  Mothers of 99 Flint newborns were surveyed about potential lead exposures. These neonates were born after the recognition of population-wide lead-in-water contamination. CBLLs were measured and maternal-fetal metrics were reviewed. CBLLs and maternal-fetal metrics were then compared with those of a retrospective cohort of 116 Detroit newborns who previously shared the same water source. Analysis involved descriptive statistics, independent t -test, and χ 2analysis. Results  CBLLs greater than or equal to 1 μg/dL (0.05 μmol/L) were more prevalent among Flint newborns (14%), as compared with Detroit newborns (2%; p = 0.001). This was a sevenfold disparity between Flint and Detroit newborns. No statistically significant differences were found in birth weight, head circumference, small for gestational age status, gestational age, or preterm status among the two groups. Conclusion  The Flint water crisis potentially exposed newborns to lead in utero, implicating maternal-fetal outcomes and future health and development. Primary prevention efforts, including identification and mitigation of lead exposure before conception and during pregnancy, are needed. New environmental exposure detection methods and long-term neurodevelopmental follow-up will complement the findings of this study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E26-E32
JournalAmerican Journal of Perinatology
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Flint
  • cord blood
  • infant
  • lead
  • maternal-fetal health
  • newborn
  • public health


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