What is a lead test?
In a lead test, a blood sample is taken from the child's finger or arm. The test measures how much lead is in your child's blood. Blood taken from the finger is called a capillary sample. Blood taken from the arm is called a venous sample. A venous sample is more exact. Ask your doctor to test your child for lead. If your child has a lead level above 10 and the nurse took blood from your child's finger, you should have a second test with a venous sample.

When should children be tested for lead?
Every child in Massachusetts must be tested for lead. The first test must be done between the ages of 9 and 12 months. Children must be tested again at ages 2 and 3. If you live in a high risk neighborhood, your child must also be tested at age 4 (see "Lead research and statistics" for a list of high risk communities). Every child must have a lead test before they begin Kindergarten.

Where can I go to have my child tested?
Your child's doctor should test your child at ages 9-12 months, and ages 2 and 3. If your child has not had a lead test, ask the doctor to test your child. You can also contact a local health clinic for a lead test.

What does my child's blood lead level mean?
A blood lead level tells you how much lead is in your child's body. Most children have lead levels under 10.

10-24: A blood lead level of 10 or more is not safe.

  • Most children will not look or act sick.
  • The doctor may give your child iron. Talk to your doctor about learning or development problems.
  • It is important to find and fix the lead hazards in your home. Have your home tested for lead.
  • Your child needs to be tested for lead a second time. If your child's level is 10-15, test your child again within 3 months. If the level is 15-19, test your child again within 2 months. If your child's lead level is 20-24, test your child again within 1 month.

25 or more: A child under 6 years old with a lead level of 25 or more is lead poisoned.

  • Your child may have to stay in the hospital. The doctor may give your child medicine to help get the lead out of their body. This is called "chelation."
  • Some children may have trouble speaking, hearing, or paying attention. Ask your doctor about learning problems. You may need a special education plan for your child.
  • If your child is lead poisoned, your home must be tested for lead. An inspector from CLPPP will check your home for lead. If there is lead in your home, it must be fixed.
  • Your child needs to be tested for lead a second time. Test your child again within 1 month.

How is lead poisoning treated?
There are different types of medical treatment for lead poisoning (lead levels of 25 or more). The doctor may give your child iron or medicines that remove the lead from the blood. This is called "chelation." You may want to have your child treated by a doctor with special knowledge and experience in lead poisoning.

Follow-up care may last for many months. The doctor may tell you to change your child's diet and add more foods with iron and calcium. During and after treatment, the doctor will test your child again to see if the blood lead levels have changed.

For More Information Call: The Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
1(800) 532-9571


This information is provided by the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program within the Department of Public Health.