FLINT, Mich. – Based on current scientific testing and guidance from local and federal partners, bathing is safe for children and adults served by the city of Flint water system.
“Given the most recent information available, we want to emphasize that it’s okay for children and adults to bathe in Flint,” said Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “Understandably, people in Flint are concerned about water quality issues. Our department is working closely with federal partners, experts in the field, and local doctors to monitor all health issues that may be related to water. At this time there is no evidence to suggest the guidance on bathing should change.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), human skin does not absorb lead in water. If unfiltered tap water contains lead over EPA’s action level, bathing and showering should be safe for children and adults even if the skin has minor cuts or scrapes. Children should not drink or rinse their mouths with bath or shower water.
Rashes are very common in the general population and there are many known causes. For public health to identify and rapidly respond to new causes of illness including rashes as they emerge, MDHHS launched an investigation to learn more about reported rashes possibly associated with Flint water exposure. The investigation is supported by technical assistance from the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (CDC/ATSDR) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assessment of Chemical Exposure (ACE) team is supporting MDHHS efforts through standardized interviews of individuals who have a current rash. These individuals are offered home water testing by the EPA for metals and other indicators of water quality that may be associated with skin irritation. At this time, no definitive association between the city of Flint water system and current rash has been made.
Additionally, MDHHS is collaborating with Genesee County Medical Society dermatologists who have volunteered to conduct free dermatological screening exams. Residents with concerns about rashes are encouraged to contact their primary care physician or United Way 2-1-1 to determine next steps in follow-up care.
On March 1, MDHHS issued a statement with Wayne State University (WSU) regarding prevention efforts against Legionnaires’ disease. MDHHS is working with buildings containing large water systems such as hospitals and nursing homes, hotels and motels, and buildings with more than 10 stories to help protect people from Legionnaires’ disease.
The CDC and MDHHS are working to identify buildings at increased risk for Legionella growth and spread and developing tools to support Legionella prevention. Further, chlorine (a water disinfectant that inhibits Legionella growth) levels will continue to be closely monitored throughout the municipal system.
WSU has also developed a protocol that includes rapid interviewing of patients reported with Legionella infections, promotion of appropriate specimen collection, and testing for Legionella and chlorination levels in the homes of people who are confirmed to have Legionnaires’ disease.
For updates on this and other issues related to Flint water, visit michigan.gov/flintwater.