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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 samples can be taken in two ways.
Ask your doctor to test your child for lead.
If your child has a lead level above 10 µg/dL (micrograms per deciliter of blood), and the nurse took blood from your child's finger, you should have a second test with a venous sample.
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.
Your child's healthcare provider 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 healthcare provider to test your child.
You can also contact a local health clinic for a lead test.
A blood lead level tells you how much lead is in your child's body.
The test measures lead levels as µg/dL, or "micrograms per deciliter of blood."
There is no "safe" level of lead in the blood, but a small amount of lead can be found in most children’s blood due to the pervasiveness of lead in the environment. Most children have lead levels under 5 µg/dL. More information about specific blood lead level ranges can be found below.
A child under 6 years old with a lead level between 10 and 24 has an elevated blood lead level
A child under 6 years old with a lead level of 25 or more is lead poisoned.
Blood Lead Level
Health Care Provider Follow Up
Environmental Follow Up
0 - 4 µg/dL
BLL found in most children. No action at MA CLPPP.
5 - 14 µg/dL
Check for iron deficiency. Iron therapy if needed.
Community health worker services offered. Inspection only by parental request.
Check BLL within 3 months.
15 - 19 µg/dL
Community health worker services offered. Inspector assigned to offer environmental investigation. If lead hazards found, home must be deleaded.
Check BLL within 2 months.
20 - 44 µg/dL
Check for iron deficiency. Iron therapy if needed. Cases ≥ 25 µg/dL are considered poisoned. Chelation therapy at 35 - 44 µg/dL.
Community health worker services offered. Mandated inspection at ≥ 25 µg/dL. If lead hazards found, home must be deleaded.
Check BLL within 1 month.
45 - 69 µg/dL
Medical evaluation (most children are hospitalized). Chelation therapy.
Community health worker services offered. Emergency inspection. If lead hazards found, home must be deleaded.
≥ 70 µg/dL
Immediate hospital admission and chelation therapy. Iron therapy after treatment.
Community health worker and hospital social worker services offered. Emergency inspection. If lead hazards found, home must be deleaded.
There are different types of medical treatment for lead poisoning (blood lead levels of 25 µg/dL 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 (CLPPP) at (800) 532-9571.