Blood lead levels
Blood lead level is a test that measures the amount of lead in the blood.
A blood sample is needed. Most of the time blood is drawn from a vein located on the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand.
In infants or young children, a sharp tool called a lancet may be used to puncture the skin.
No special preparation is needed.
For children, it may be helpful to explain how the test will feel and why it is done. This may make the child feel less nervous.
You may feel slight pain or a sting when the needle is inserted. You may also feel some throbbing at the site after the blood is drawn.
This test is used to screen people at risk for lead poisoning. This may include industrial workers and children who live in urban areas. The test is also used to diagnose lead poisoning when a person has symptoms of the condition. It is also used to measure how well treatment for lead poisoning is working. Lead is common in the environment, so it is often found in the body in low levels.
Small amounts of lead in adults are not thought to be harmful. However, even low levels of lead can be dangerous to infants and children. It can cause lead poisoning that leads to problems in mental development.
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your health care provider about the meaning of your specific test results.
In adults, a blood lead level of 5 µg/dL or 0.24 µmol/L or above is considered elevated. Treatment may be recommended if:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Lead: what do parents need to know to protect their children? www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/acclpp/blood_lead_levels.htm. Updated May 17, 2017. Accessed April 30, 2019.
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Markowitz M. Lead poisoning. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 739.
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Schnur J, John RM. Childhood lead poisoning and the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for lead exposure. J Am Assoc Nurse Pract. 2014;26(5):238-247. PMID: 24616453 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24616453.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 4/26/2019
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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