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Childhood Lead Exposure
Lead is a highly toxic metal that was commonly used in paint, gasoline, and plumbing pipes and fixtures. 150,068 (22%) Michigan children under 6 years old had a blood lead test in 2017. Of those tested, 3.1% (4,711) children had elevated blood lead levels.
Childhood lead data are available on the MiTracking data portal.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) considers a blood lead level (BLL) of 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) or higher to be elevated and the level at which actions should be taken to reduce lead in the child’s environment. No amount of lead in the body is considered safe.
Learn more about lead at What is an elevated blood lead level?
Paint Chips, Dust, and Soil
People can breathe or swallow (eat or drink) lead or lead dust. Lead paint is a problem when it is peeling or chipping, gets into the air as dust, gets into the soil, or when it is on surfaces that children can chew on. Children sometimes eat lead paint chips because the chips have a sweet taste. Children are also more likely to put their hands and other objects into their mouths that might have lead-contaminated dust or soil on them.
Learn more about lead at How am I exposed to lead?
Products in your home may have lead.
Learn more about lead at How am I exposed to lead? Other sources.
Jobs and Hobbies
Using or removing lead may occur during work or a hobby. Children of parents who are around lead at work are also at risk of harm. Parents may have lead particles on their clothing or other work items and bring them into the home.
Learn more about lead at How am I exposed to lead? Jobs and hobbies.
- Developing brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the harm lead can cause making children at higher risk
- Pregnant and nursing mothers
- Lead can pass from the mother to her fetus or from mother to baby
- Jobs where workers come into contact with lead
- Learning problems
- Behavior problems including hyperactivity
- Lower IQ
- Slowed growth and development
- Hearing and speech problems
- Anemia- a condition in which you lack enough healthy red blood cells to carry enough oxygen to your body’s tissues
The longer a person is exposed to lead, the higher the likelihood that health problems could occur.
Learn more about lead at What are the health effects?
There are steps you can take to protect yourself and those in your household from lead exposure.
- Wash your hands before eating
- Eat foods high in calcium, vitamin C, and iron
- Wash toys and flat surfaces using soapy water
- Take your shoes off before going into your home
Learn more about lead at How can I reduce lead exposure?
A blood test is the only way to determine a blood lead level. The most reliable test draws blood from your arm, which is called a venous test. Some health providers and clinics test with blood drawn from your finger (a capillary test). Elevated lead blood level from a capillary test should be followed up with a venous test to confirm result.
Talk to your doctor about getting a blood lead test for you or your loved ones if you’re concerned about recent or ongoing lead exposure.
Lead data on MiTracking include the indicators:
- Annual blood lead levels
- Blood lead levels by birth cohort
- Age of housing
- Number of children tested
Data can tell us
- The number and percent of children tested for blood lead and among those tested, the number and percent with BLLs equal to or above the current reference level of 5 µg/dL
Data cannot tell us
- The total number of children affected
- The cost, effect, result, or consequence of lead exposure
- Source of lead exposure
Find out More
Surveillance data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Data Warehouse were used to create this dataset through a Data Use Agreement. Find out more data information, visit:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS)
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
CDC. (2019). National Environmental Public Health Tracking: Childhood Lead Poisoning. Retrieved from https://ephtracking.cdc.gov/showChildhoodLeadPoisoning
EPA. (2001). Lead and a Healthy Diet: What you can do to protect your child. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/nutrition.pdf
EPA. (2019). Learn About Lead. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/lead/learn-about-lead
MDHHS. (2019). Learn About Lead. Retrieved from /lead/0,5417,7-310-84213---,00.html
MSU. (2016). Fight Lead with Nutrition. Retrieved from http://msue.anr.msu.edu/resources/fight_lead_with_nutrition