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Free lead blood testings offered to Benton Harbor residents amid crisis

Benton Harbor Lead Blood Testing
Posted at 5:02 PM, Jan 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-19 17:36:07-05

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — As the lead crisis in Benton Harbor continues, residents are getting the chance to get their blood tested.

Water bottles are still a lifeline for many, and even though pipe replacement has begun, many say the damage has already been done.

That's why the free lead blood testing is so important to those impacted, especially for children. The goal is to get ahead of it and figure out what's next if they've been affected.

"Since we had the lead within the community, it is best to keep everybody safe," said La Trese Brown, a Benton Harbor resident.

La Trese Brown brought her 5-year-old grandson along with her to get a free lead blood test.

It was the first event of its kind for the city.

"I know with children that have lead in their system, it can cause a learning disability for them as they get older, so just to make sure that me and my family are safe just come out to get tested," said Brown.

Like Brown, many others also came out. Both kids and adults were getting tested to see what their lead levels are looking like amid the crisis.

"Especially for younger kids too, a lot of that stuff can impact their development later on. It is important to know that. It is important to know what you’re exposed to, how much lead is in your blood," said Tami Cuccia, the manager for MIG Customer and Provider Operations at McLaren Health Plan.

It's not the first time McLaren Health Plan has done this free testing, also helping during the Flint lead crisis.

The goal of the day was 100 people to get the best idea of what they're dealing with. It's high lead levels that they're looking to detect.

"We see it more in these older neighborhoods because a lot of these houses were really built before 1970. A lot of the paint on the walls and trims is lead based; your pipes and trims are all lead based, so it is pretty common in these homes, so it is not uncommon, like I said, in these older neighborhoods unfortunately," said Cuccia.

It's some quick paperwork, a poke of the finger with three blood imprints on paper, and then the tests are sent off to the lab. Results are normally back within the week.

"We’ll call if someone is high and make sure they’re educated on what they need to do next," said Cuccia.

"I suggest that everyone get tested and everything, because you can never know what can be within your system," said Brown.

McLaren Health Plan is already working to bring another test site back in February. Details for that have not yet been finalized.

Blood lead testing for children is also being offered through the WIC program and the Berrien County Health Department by calling (800) 815-5485 or by visiting their website.

RELATED: Benton Harbor residents: Pick up bottled water at these locations (Jan. 20–26)

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