FLINT, Mich. (WJBK/AP) - Federal and state officials say the river water that Flint residents used for more than a year for bathing and cleaning may have caused skin rashes that possibly worsened because of people's mental stress and hygiene changes made over concerns about the water.
State and federal officials are calling it the "Flint Rash Report". After six months of testing and reports of hair loss and skin rashes from the people of Flint, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Resources say the water 'may' be connected to the symptoms.
"We think there's a strong suggestion the water quality at that time, especially in terms of the paramaters that we did measure, represents a smoking gun if you will that these are rash-related," CDC Dr. Patrick Bressye said.
The study was started in Februrary and evaluated 400 people of all ages. The results show that 80% of the patients were classified as having skin conditions that the CDC & Department of Health says are 'likely' caused by the water after the city switched to the Flint River in April 2014.
"I know that these findings may not alleviate the fear and anxiety that many Flint families feel right now about all of this," said Dr. Nicole Lurie with the Dept of Health and Human Services.
Officials say the rashes that started before the city switched off of the Flint River in October of 2015 tended to be the most severe. But Dr. Lurie stopped short of saying they're certain that the water is the cause of the problems.
"We can't definitively say there's a link between the elevations and these rashes because water from the homes of participants are not available," Dr. Lurie said.
The problem is that the water in those homes that came from the facets, provided by the Flint River, wasn't available for testing purposes. For Flint residents, like Tracey Cavette, that answer isn't good enough.
"Don't try to sidestep it by saying 'likely,' that's not taking responsibility for what you did," Cavette said. "It was the flint water. We know it was. We never had these issues before that happened."
She said she had to watch her son break out in rashes and saw her daughter's fall out. And she's not the only one. Katherine Palmer said her wasn't only falling out, it changed colors.
"My hair was changing colors. It was changing colors!" Palmer said. "And extreme amounts of hair were (falling out). Inches of hair!"
Officials urge those concerned to see doctors. They also remind them that lead and phosphates do not cause skin rashes or hair loss -- it's the chlorine, hardness and Ph balance that affect skin and hair. They also say the water in Flint is now considered "normal and safe."
Cavette said they've heard that before.
"No, we don't trust them. And they're telling us it's still ok to drink from the faucet - we still don't drink that water," Cavette said. "We will never drink from that tap again."
Lurie says Flint's current Lake Huron water, which the city returned to last October, does not contain metals and minerals at levels known to be associated with skin problems.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.