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Lead Exposure - Children

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Department of Health and Human Services

Lead Exposure - Children

Lead is a highly toxic metal that was commonly used in paint, gasoline, and plumbing pipes and fixtures. Statistics show that 96,462 (14.1%) Michigan children under 6 years old had a blood lead test in 2021 (MiTracking Data Portal). Of those tested, 3.5% (3,401) children had elevated blood lead levels (EBLL) of 3.5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) or greater (MiTracking Data Portal). Note: Blood lead testing throughout Michigan decreased starting in March 2020, associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay-at-home orders, closures, and virtual care limited blood lead testing. The population tested in 2020 and 2021 is likely different from previous years. Comparing the EBLL percentage in 2020 and 2021 to other years will be difficult.

Childhood lead data are available on the MiTracking data portal for:

  • Age of Housing
  • Annual Blood Lead Levels
  • Blood Lead Levels by Birth Year
  • An elevated blood lead level is a blood lead test value at or above the “blood lead reference value” (BLRV) set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The BLRV identifies children with higher levels of lead in their blood than most children. The BLRV is not health-based. It is a tool to identify children who need public health services and medical evaluation and to prioritize communities that need interventions to reduce lead exposure. There is no safe level of lead. In Michigan, services available to families of children with elevated blood lead levels include in-home nurse case management, inspection of their homes for lead hazards, and abatement of lead-contaminated homes.1

    In 2012, the CDC adopted the BLRV of 5 µg/dL; accordingly, MDHHS defined an elevated blood lead level in Michigan as 5 µg/dL or greater (including results 4.5-4.9 rounded up). On May 1, 2022, MDHHS lowered the definition of elevated blood lead level to 3.5 µg/dL or greater, based on an updated BLRV from CDC.2

    Elevated blood lead measures are available for all years on the MiTracking data portal by:

    • 3.5 µg/ dL (new BLRV)*
    • 5 µg/ dL (old BLRV, due to rounding, includes results for 4.5-4.9)

    *Note: BLLs 3.5-4.4 were not defined as elevated until 2022.

    Learn more about lead at Blood Lead Testing.

  • Almost everyone has been exposed to lead at some time in their life. Lead can be found in all parts of our environment, including our home. Lead in the home can be found in1

    Go to Mi Lead Safe to Learn more about lead.

  • Developing brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the harm lead can cause, making children at higher risk. Lead can also pass from the mother to her fetus or from mother to nursing baby. Some of the leading lead exposure risk factors for children and fetuses include1:

    • Living in homes built before 1978.
    • Having family members with jobs or hobbies involving contact with lead.

    Learn more about lead at Lead and Your Health.

  • Some of the health effects that children may experience from exposure to lead are1:

    • Lower IQ scores.
    • Decreased academic achievement.
    • Increased problems with behavior and attention related disorders.
    • Decreased hearing.
    • Decreased kidney function. 

    The longer a person is exposed to lead, the higher the likelihood that health problems could occur.

    Learn more about lead at Lead and Your Health

  • There are steps you can take to protect yourself and those in your household from lead exposure.1

    • Eat healthy foods with calcium, iron, and vitamin C to limit the amount of lead absorbed into your body.
    • Wash your hands before eating to keep from accidentally swallowing lead dust.
    • Wash toys and flat surfaces using soapy water.
    • Take shoes off before entering the home or living areas to prevent tracking in lead contaminated soil.
    • Pay attention to recalls that are caused by lead. Throw away any recalled household items or food.
    • Check your home's plumbing or hire a plumber to learn if any of your plumbing may contain lead.

    Learn more about lead at Lead and Your Health

  • A blood lead test can tell you if you or your loved ones have recent or ongoing exposures to lead. A blood lead test cannot tell you whether you or your loved ones had exposures in the past. The most reliable test draws blood from your arm, which is called a venous test.3 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.

    Learn more about blood lead testing at Blood Lead Testing.

     

  • Lead Data on MiTracking include the Indicators:

    • Annual blood lead levels
    • Blood lead levels by birth year
    • Age of housing

    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:
      • 3.5 µg/ dL (new BLRV)
      • 5 µg/ dL (old BLRV, due to rounding, includes results for 4.5-4.9)
    • Data are available by year, county, zip code, age group, and test type.

    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 with the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP). Find out more data information, visit:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

    Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention

    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

    Lead

    Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS)

    How Lead Gets into Drinking Water (video)

    Lead in Drinking Water Safety Tips (video)

    Mi Lead Safe

    National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network

    Childhood Lead Poisoning

    Data Explorer

    U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

    Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes (OLHCHH)

    1. Mi Lead Safe. Lead and your health. MDHHS website. https://www.michigan.gov/mileadsafe/learn/lead-and-your-health. Accessed August 11, 2022.
    2. Ruckart PZ, Jones RL, Courtney JG, et al. Update of the Blood Lead Reference Value - United States, 2021. MMWR Morbidity and mortality weekly report. 2021;70(43):1509-1512. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7043a4
    3. CDC. Lead Poisoning Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/prevention/default.htm Accessed August 11, 2022.