Who should be tested for lead poisoning?
Talk to your health care provider about whether your child needs to be tested for lead. Your health care provider may ask you questions to see if your child is at risk for lead poisoning. The only way to know for sure if your child has been exposed to lead, is to have their blood tested.
If any of the following are true, your child could be at risk for lead poisoning and you should talk to your health care provider about a blood lead test.
My child lives in, or regularly visits a home built before 1978 that:
- Has peeling or chipping paint.
- Is now being remodeled.
- Was recently remodeled.
My child has:
- Chewed old painted surfaces.
- Licked or chewed vinyl mini-blinds.
- Put metal or painted toys or jewelry in their mouth.
- Been given the traditional remedies Azarcon, Greta, Paylooah, or the cosmetic Kohl.
- A brother, sister, or playmate with lead poisoning.
- Recently immigrated or been adopted from another country.
- Used pottery or ceramics made in other countries for cooking, storing, or serving food or drink.
Someone does one of these things in my house:
- Stained glass.
- Pottery with lead glazes.
- Making fishing weights.
- Reloading ammunition.
- Soldering with lead solder.
Someone who lives in my house works at:
- Remodeling older homes.
- Refinishing furniture.
- A battery factory or recycling plant.
- A metal products factory (lead or brass).
- A lead mining or smelting operation.
- A chemical factory.
- A radiator repair shop.
- An indoor firing range.
How is the testing done for lead poisoning?
A health care provider will test your child's blood for lead. . The test is simple. To find out how much lead is in a child's blood, a small amount of blood is taken from the child's arm or finger.
- Taking blood from a child's finger is called a finger-stick or a capillary test. You may be able to get the results that day. If your child's lead level is considered high, you may be asked to follow up on the capillary test with a venous blood test, which can be more accurate.
- The other test in which blood is taken from an arm vein (venous blood test) involves drawing blood into a tube and sending it to a lab. There could be a wait-time of several days to receive the results back from the lab.
What do the blood lead test results mean?
The amount of lead found in a child's blood is called a blood lead level. There is no totally safe level of lead for children. The blood lead level will tell if your child has been exposed to lead in the last month. Blood lead tests tell how many micrograms (millionth of a gram) of lead are in each deciliter (tenth of a liter) of a child's blood (µg/dL). Blood lead levels can range from typical (below 2 µg/dL) to very dangerous (above 20 µg/dL).
More information on blood test results:
- My Child's Lead Test Result (PDF)
- Available in Arabic, Burmese, Chinese, Farsi, Nepali, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Tigrinya, Vietnamese
What if my child has lead poisoning?
Fortunately, only a small number of babies and children have high enough levels of lead in their blood that they need treatment.
- If your child's blood lead level is very high, your doctor will treat your child with medicine to lower the amount of lead in the blood.
- If your child's blood lead level is above average, your health care provider should talk to you about how to reduce the level. Your health care provider should then test your child's blood lead level every few months until the level drops into the average range.
- If one or more of your children has high blood lead levels, your doctor may call your local health department. Persons from the health department can help by inspecting your home for possible lead exposures and will work with you to reduce the sources.
- Feed your child a diet that will help protect them from lead. Lead absorption is increased when there is not enough iron or calcium in a child's diet. Give your child healthy foods, high in calcium, iron and vitamin C, and low in fat. Remember to wash your child's hands often, especially before meals and after playing outside.