Allen JM, Cuthbertson AA, Liberatore HK, Kimura SY, Mantha A, Edwards MA, Richardson SD. Showering in Flint, MI: Is there a DBP problem? J Environ Sci (China). 2017 Aug;58:271-284. doi: 10.1016/j.jes.2017.06.009.
Lead contamination in the City of Flint, MI has been well documented over the past two years, with lead levels above the EPA Action Level until summer 2016. This resulted from an ill-fated decision to switch from Detroit water (Lake Huron) with corrosion control, to Flint River water without corrosion control. Although lead levels are now closer to normal, reports of skin rashes have sparked questions surrounding tap water in some Flint homes. This study investigated the presence of contaminants, including disinfection by-products (DBPs), in the hot tap water used for showering in the homes of residents in Flint. Extensive quantitative analysis of 61 regulated and priority unregulated DBPs was conducted in Flint hot and cold tap water, along with the analysis of 50 volatile organic compounds and a nontarget comprehensive, broadscreen analysis, to identify a possible source for the reported skin rashes. For comparison, chlorinated hot and cold waters from three other cities were also sampled, including Detroit, which also uses Lake Huron as its source water. Results showed that hot water samples generally contained elevated levels of regulated and priority unregulated DBPs compared to cold water samples, but trihalomethanes were still within regulatory limits. Overall, hot shower water from Flint was similar to waters sampled from the three other cities and did not have unusually high levels of DBPs or other organic chemicals that could be responsible for the skin rashes observed by residents. It is possible that an inorganic chemical or microbial contaminant may be responsible.