Testing - What to Expect
should my child be tested for lead?
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.
Learn more about if your child should be tested.
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 will be asked to follow up on the capillary test with a venous blood test, to confirm that the level is high.
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. 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:
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. The use of the pharmaceutical drug chelation is reserved only for children that have an extremely high blood-lead level (generally at or above 43 µg/dL). The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends drug chelation therapy should only be undertaken under careful medical supervision in a center capable of providing appropriate intensive care services. This procedure is not without risks. It is important to discuss these risks with your health care provider.
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 your child has received a blood lead test and the results exceed the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention "reference level" (5 micrograms per deciliter) your family is eligible to have a free visit from a Snohomish Health District staff member to look for potential sources of lead present in your home that may be contributing to your child's lead level.
A phone call with a public health nurse that will ask a set of questions focusing in on housing, behavior of the child, family lifestyle and travel. These questions are designed to help narrow down the list of potential sources of lead to those relating specifically to your family. After potential sources of lead have been identified a more in-depth look at those sources can take place.
To further examine potential sources of lead in your house a thorough walk-through will be done. The walk-through occurs inside and outside the house. Key items that will be looked at include paint condition, surfaces and moisture barriers.
Optional: Samples may be collected to further identify or confirm suspected sources of lead present in the house. Types of samples that may be collected include paint chips, dust wipes, soil, and/or water. Any samples that are obtained will be submitted to a laboratory for analysis at no cost to the family.
Health District staff will communicate the results with you and any actions that should be taken.
Health District staff will follow-up with you and your child's healthcare provider to ensure that their blood lead level decreases to below 5µg/dL.
Where can I test my children's blood lead levels?
Contact your pediatrician or health care provider. For more information:
- Visit the Washington Department of Health's Testing for Lead Poisoning website.
- Call the Washington Lead Information Hotline at 1-800-909-9898.