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Blood Lead Testing

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Department of Health and Human Services

Blood Lead Testing

What is a blood lead test?

A blood lead test is a test that measures the amount of lead in the blood. During a blood lead test, a small amount of blood is taken from the finger or arm and is tested for lead. There are two types of blood lead tests:

  • A capillary (finger poke)
  • A venous (blood draw)

Capillary test

A capillary test uses blood from a finger-prick and is often used as the first step or screening test to determine if a child has lead in their blood. Capillary blood samples can produce higher results if lead on the skin is captured in the sample. For this reason, a capillary test that shows a blood lead level at or above the CDC's blood lead reference value should be followed by a venous test to confirm that the level is elevated.

Venous test

A venous test uses blood from a vein in a person's arm. It is the most accurate of the two tests. This type of test can take a few days to provide results.

Elevated blood lead level

An elevated blood lead level is defined by the "blood lead reference value (BLRV)". The BLRV identifies children with blood lead levels that are higher than most children's levels, based on data from a national survey. On October 28, 2021, the CDC updated the BLRV from 5 to 3.5 micrograms per deciliter.

Why is blood lead testing important?

Lead is an invisible threat that is found throughout our environment. 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.

Blood lead testing is particularly important for young children and pregnant persons because exposure to lead early in life has been shown to cause problems with learning, behavior, hearing, and growth. Learn more about lead and health.

Lead exposure is preventable. The key is stopping children from coming into contact with lead.

What happens if the test result comes back elevated?

If a person has an elevated blood lead level, the goals are to:

  • identify the source of lead
  • stop the lead exposure, and
  • determine any other tests or follow-up that might be needed.

Your local health department and your health care provider can connect you with resources to accomplish these goals.

For questions about blood lead testing, call the MDHHS Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 517-335-8885 or email them at MDHHS-CLPPP@michigan.gov.

Where can you get a blood lead test?

Talk to your health care provider about blood lead testing. If you do not have a healthcare provider, contact your local health department to discuss where to get a blood lead test in your community.

Check the online calendar of upcoming free mobile blood lead testing events near you!

Michigan child blood lead testing data

To learn about blood lead testing data for your community, visit the MiTracking data.

If you need help navigating the data portal, here is a basics tutorial video.