Testing for lead poisoning
Testing your child's blood for lead is the best way to tell if there's lead in his or her body. But remember that the best protection is to prevent your child from being lead poisoned in the first place. Information about blood lead testing is available from healthcare providers (doctors and health clinics) and public health departments.
What is blood lead testing?
A finger prick lead test is a quick and easy test. If a finger prick test shows lead, a test that takes blood from a vein can confirm the results.
How much does it cost and where is blood lead testing available?
Healthcare providers (doctors and health clinics) do most of the blood lead testing for young children.
In Chicago, free or sliding scale blood lead tests are available at neighborhood clinics. Contact the Chicago Department of Public Health at 312-747-LEAD. Outside Chicago, contact the Illinois Department of Public Health's Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 217-782-0403 to ask about free or low-cost blood lead testing. The cost of getting a blood lead test is not the same everywhere. The Resource Guide on Childhood Lead Poisoning for Parents and Other Advocates in Illinois also provides information about testing locations, costs, and other resources.
Who should be tested for lead exposure?
Illinois and Chicago laws require children at high risk of lead poisoning to be tested for lead at certain ages. This is called the blood lead screening schedule. Healthcare providers can ask parents or guardians certain questions during regular visits to determine if a child is at high risk for lead poisoning and requires a blood lead test. To learn more about screening guidelines, download Lead Screening and Case Follow-up Guidelines for Local Health Departments.
At what age should children first be tested for lead?
In Illinois, children who live in a high-risk area (or zip code) are considered at high risk for lead poisoning and are required by law to be screened from 6 months through 6 years of age. In Chicago, all children are considered at high risk for lead poisoning, and Chicago law requires children to be first tested at six or nine months of age.
Children who live in a low-risk area (or zip code) need a blood lead test when they are 12 months old only if their healthcare provider thinks they are at high risk for lead poisoning for other reasons. Healthcare providers can ask parents or guardians certain questions to determine if a child is at high risk for lead poisoning and requires a blood lead test.