UPDATE: Local, State health departments offering free soil testing for lead on July 17th

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BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. -- UPDATE: The Benton Harbor SoilSHOP will now take place next Wednesday, July 17 during the Farmers Market. This event was rescheduled due to this week’s inclement weather.

ORIGINAL STORY: The Berrien County Health Department, along with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, are offering free soil testing for lead contamination for community members from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, July 10.

Organizers say Benton Harbor residents are encouraged to bring soil samples from their garden, yard or play area to the Benton Harbor Farmers Market at 127 E. Main St., to be screened for lead and test results will be provided in around 15 minutes.

If lead is detected, MDHHS staff will provide information to residents on how they can limit their exposure to it.

“High exposure to lead can cause a variety of serious health problems, especially for children while their bodies are growing,” said Dawn Poindexter, BCHD’s emerging threats supervisor. “We encourage community members to bring soil to be tested for lead so they can enjoy their backyards and play spaces without worry this summer – or take any necessary steps if lead is discovered. We are grateful to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for providing access to free lead testing for our community.”

Community members are encouraged to follow these steps for collecting a soil sample for testing:

  • Identify the garden area where you want to collect the sample. Put on garden gloves to collect the soil.
  • Collect soil from four to five random spots, digging no deeper than 6 inches.
  • Mix soil together in a clean container. A clean bucket works, but you can also use other containers like a plant pot or bowl.
  • Remove pebbles, rocks and roots. Let the soil dry naturally by air. Do not use a flame, oven or hair dryer to dry the soil.
  • Transfer two to three cups of the mixed soil into a clean quart-sized sealed plastic bag. Label with the location of the sample and total number of spots where soil was collected and then bring the bag to the SoilSHOP.

For a visual demonstration of how to collect a soil sample, watch this video.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it’s important to identify high lead levels in soil because individuals can easily be exposed by playing in soil, gardening, consuming food from a home garden or getting any soil in their mouth.

For more information, visit the MDHHS Frequently Asked Questions page.

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