Lead in water resource for City of Benton Harbor

City of Benton Harbor water resources

Elevated lead levels 

We know health is largely shaped by conditions—known as social determinants of health—outside of the health care system. This includes things like access to clean water and living environments that positively impact health.

Since 2018, Spectrum Health has been actively monitoring the elevated lead levels in the city of Benton Harbor water and working closely with the Berrien County Health Department and other local and state partners in response. As a leading health care voice, and an organization who employs team members directly affected by this situation, we are committed to do our part to provide everyone in our community with the resources they need for healthy living.

The Center for Better Health in Benton Harbor serves as a filter distribution site and provides mental health resources for individuals and families affected by the situation. Spectrum Health team members continue to volunteer to distribute bottled water to both Benton Harbor city residents and impacted team members. Our subject matter experts work to educate community members on the dangers of lead exposure and steps they can take to minimize risk. Patients are also encouraged to discuss lead testing options, results, and necessary treatment options or lifestyle modifications with their health care providers.

For additional questions about lead exposure, we encourage community members to visit michigan.gov/mileadsafe or call the Berrien County Health Department public hotline at 1.800.815.5485


Water use in the City of Benton Harbor

City of Benton Harbor residents are being asked to use free bottled water while work is completed to provide assurance that efforts like filtering are proving effective in reducing lead exposure. 
Residents should use bottled water for:
  • Cooking
  • Drinking
  • Brushing teeth
  • Rinsing foods
  • Mixing powdered infant formula

Tap water can continue to be used for:

  • Showering or bathing
  • Washing hands, dishes or clothes
  • Cleaning

Do not use hot water from your tap from drinking or cooking. Lead dissolves more easily into hot water. Do not try to remove lead by boiling your water. Lead is not removed by boiling. Water evaporate during boiling, so the amount of lead in the water may end up higher than before boiling. 

For more information, or to learn of bottled water distribution location, please call 2-1-1 (844.875.9211) or visit Michigan.gov/MiLeadSafe where you can find locations and times to pick up free bottled water. Berrien County Health Department’s water hotline can also be reached at 800.815.5485, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m

Lead exposure

Exposure to lead, a toxic metal, can make you, your children, and even your pets, sick. Breathing, touching, or eating paint or dust containing lead is the most common way of being exposed. You can also be exposed to lead from water pipes or faucets, especially when hot water is used.

“Even low levels of lead exposure in children can have a significant impact,” said Lisa Fink, MD, chief medical officer, pediatrician, and internist at InterCare Community Health Network in Benton Harbor. “This is because a child’s brain is still developing, and lead is toxic to the brain. However, lower levels of lead can be hard to detect with symptoms alone which is why parents need to be aware of their environment and city water supplies.”

For additional questions about lead exposure, visit michigan.gov/mileadsafe or call the Berrien County Health Department public hotline at 1.800.815.5485

Taking action

kitchen sinkHow can you protect yourself and your children from lead poisoning, no matter where you live? Take action with these steps:

  • Have your home tested for water by contacting your water supplier or visiting Michigan.gov/drinkingwater to find a certified lab. If water is found to be high in lead content, follow instructions provided by your local or state health department which may include installing a water filter or using bottled water.
  • Let tap water run for a few moments before using it and only use cold water for drinking, cooking, and preparing baby formula. Do not boil water to remove lead.
  • Feed children foods rich in iron and calcium which can limit the amount of lead they soak up. Good choices include eggs, lean red meat, beans, and dairy products.
  • Wash children’s hands before they eat. Also wash them before they take a nap and go to sleep at night.
  • Keep house surfaces clean. Wash floors, window wells, frames, sills, and play areas weekly.
  • Don’t let kids play in bare soil (consider a sandbox instead). Wipe children’s hands and remove their shoes after playing outdoors.
  • Don’t let your children lick or chew painted surfaces and regularly check for areas with chipped paint.
  • Wash toys often. Be aware of toy recalls due to lead paint. Sign up for recall alerts at cpsc.gov

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