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Safe Drinking Water For Your Baby
Even though most drinking water in Minnesota is safe, it is a good idea to make sure your drinking water is safe for your new baby. Below are key steps to consider before giving water to your baby or using it to make formula or juice.
- Find out where your drinking water comes from. Is it from a public water system or private well?
- If your drinking water comes from a private well, have the well water tested for coliform bacteria, nitrate, arsenic, lead, and manganese. Learn more under If your drinking water comes from a private well.
- If your drinking water comes from a public water system, let the water run before using it to reduce levels of lead. Find more information under If your drinking water comes from a public water system.
If your drinking water comes from a private well
Test your well water before or during pregnancy
Most private well water in Minnesota is safe, but some well water may have contaminants in it that can make babies sick or harm their development. The only way to know if your well water is safe for your baby is to have it tested.
We take extra steps to protect babies in our homes by using safety latches on cabinets and covering unused electrical outlets. Testing your private well is another easy step to take in your home to make sure your baby has a healthy start!
It is important to test the water that you use for drinking or preparing baby formula. This may be water from the faucet at your kitchen sink, a dispenser on your refrigerator door, a treatment system with a separate tap near your sink, or a filtration pitcher.
Babies are at greater risk of harm from water contaminants
Babies drink more water for their size than older children and adults. Babies’ developing brains and organs can be injured or damaged more easily and their bodies are not very good at getting rid of harmful substances. Some contaminants can pass from mother to baby during pregnancy.
MDH recommends testing for:
- Coliform bacteria at least once a year.
- Nitrate every other year.
- Lead at least once.
- Manganese at least once.
- Arsenic at least once.
- Fluoride: talk with your baby's doctor or dentist about whether you should test for this.
Coliform bacteria can indicate that other infectious bacteria, viruses, or parasites may be in your water. These may cause diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, nausea, headaches, fever, and fatigue. Infants and children are more likely to get sick or die from infectious diseases. Any level of coliform bacteria may be harmful.
High levels of nitrate can affect how blood carries oxygen and can cause methemoglobinemia (also known as blue baby syndrome). Methemoglobinemia can cause skin to turn a blue color and can result in serious illness or death. Bottle-fed infants under six months old are at the highest risk of getting methemoglobinemia. Water can be harmful if the level of nitrate is above 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L) or 10 parts per million (ppm). Nitrate is measured as nitrogen.
Lead can damage the brain, kidneys, and nervous system. Lead can also slow development or cause learning, behavior, and hearing problems for children. Babies, children under six years old, and pregnant women are at the highest health risks from lead. Any level of lead is harmful.
High levels of manganese can cause problems with memory, attention, and motor skills. It can also cause learning and behavior problems in infants and children. Water can be harmful if the level of manganese is above 100 micrograms per liter (µg/L) or 100 parts per billion (ppb).
High levels of arsenic can contribute to reduced intelligence in children and increased risk of cancers in the bladder, lungs, and liver. Arsenic can also contribute to diabetes, heart disease, and skin problems. Any level of arsenic may be harmful. MDH highly recommends treating water with arsenic above 10 µg/L or finding an alternate source of water.
The right amount of fluoride helps prevent tooth decay. Your baby’s doctor or dentist can help make sure your baby gets the right amount. The ideal level of fluoride in drinking water is 0.7 mg/L or 0.7 ppm to protect teeth.
How to test
You are responsible for keeping your well water safe and testing it as needed. MDH recommends you use an accredited laboratory to test your water. Contact a laboratory to get sample containers and instructions, or ask your county environmental or public health services if they provide well testing services. The laboratory can answer questions about how to take samples, cost, and how long it will take to receive your results.
Learn more about water quality issues and steps you can take if there is an unsafe level of a contaminant in your water at Water Quality/Well Testing.
Most contaminants can be reduced through properly maintained home water treatment. Learn more at Home Water Treatment.
- Well Owner’s Handbook: A Consumer’s Guide to Water Wells in Minnesota (PDF)
- Water Quality/Well Testing
- Arsenic in Drinking Water
- Bacteria, Viruses and Parasites in Drinking Water
- Lead in Drinking Water
- Manganese in Drinking Water
- Nitrate in Drinking Water
- Water Fluoridation and Oral Health
If your drinking water comes from a public water system
Public water systems (such as municipal water utilities, rural water systems, and manufactured housing parks) are required by law to regularly test and treat their water to ensure it meets all US EPA Safe Drinking Water Act standards. You can take additional action to further ensure that your drinking water is safe for your baby.
Reduce lead in drinking water
Lead can get in your drinking water as it passes through your household plumbing system. Lead can damage the brain, kidneys, and nervous system. Lead can also slow development or cause learning, behavior, and hearing problems for children. Babies, children under six years old, and pregnant women are at the highest health risks from lead. Any level of lead is harmful. Follow the steps below to protect your baby from lead in your drinking water:
- Let the water run before using it for drinking or cooking. If you have a lead service line, let the water run for 3-5 minutes. If you do not have a lead service line, let the water run for 30-60 seconds. The more time water has been sitting in your home's pipes, the more lead it may contain.
- You can find out if you have a lead service line by contacting your public water system, or you can check by following the steps at Are your pipes made of lead?.
- The only way to know if lead has been reduced by letting it run is to check with a test. If letting the water run does not reduce lead, consider other options to reduce your exposure.
- Use cold water for drinking, making food, and making baby formula. Hot water releases more lead from pipes than cold water.
- Test your water. In most cases, letting the water run and using cold water for drinking and cooking should keep lead levels low in your drinking water. If you are still concerned about lead, arrange with a laboratory to test your tap water. Testing your water is important if young children or pregnant women drink your tap water. Contact a Minnesota Department of Health accredited laboratory to get a sample container and instructions on how to submit a sample. Minnesota Department of Health can help you understand your test results (Search for Accredited Laboratories).
- Treat your water if a test shows your water has high levels of lead after you let the water run (see Home Water Treatment - Step 3: Select a water treatment option).
Be alert for water quality notifications
Your public water system is required to inform you if there are water quality problems. They may notify you by television, radio, newspaper, text message, or with a flyer in your water bill. Notices will describe the problem and give you instructions on how to get safe drinking water.
Read your Consumer Confidence Report
Community public water systems must provide their customers with an annual report of water testing results called a Consumer Confidence Report. Learn more at Consumer Confidence Reports.
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