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Understanding your child’s blood lead level

FamilyAny exposure to lead is potentially harmful for a child as there is no known “safe” level.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has accepted its advisory committee’s recent recommendations and agreed to revise the blood lead level at which health care providers respond to childhood lead exposure.

The new guidance replaces the “level of concern” that was previously defined as 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (ug/dL). The Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention recommended that CDC start using a “reference value.”

A reference value is a statistic for the number that could be considered higher than normal. Using the CDCs recommendation, the new reference level for lead is 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood (ug/dL) because 97.5 percent of the population have blood lead levels below five, and 2.5 percent have blood lead levels of five or above.

Approximately 450,000 children in the U.S. have blood lead levels at this level or higher. The Committee also underscored the critical importance of minimizing lead exposures from the primary source - older housing with lead-based paint and contaminated soil and dust.

As a parent, you may wonder what this policy change means for you and your family. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions:

Q: I was told that my child’s blood lead level was “negative” the last time that I had him/her tested. Should I have him/her re-tested?

A: Ask your physician for the specific result of the last blood test.  If the number was equal to or higher than 5 ug/dL, testing should be repeated to confirm.  Having blood drawn from your child’s vein is more accurate than a finger stick test.  Make sure other children under 6 years of age, developmentally delayed children, and pregnant women get tested as well.

Q: What can I do to prevent my child’s exposure to lead?

A: Take these steps to reduce your child’s exposure to lead in your home/environment:

  • Keep your child away from renovation or maintenance work that disturbs paint, and make sure no paint chips or dust remain in the work area before your child enters.  If you hire someone to conduct renovation, repairs, or painting in a home built before 1978, make sure that they are lead safety certified by Environmental Protection Agency.

  • Look for and safely fix peeling paint: report it to your landlord if you’re a tenant so that repairs will get made (and call code enforcement or a legal aid society if there’s no response); and repair it safely if you’re a homeowner. To find out more about repairing peeling paint safely, visit

  • Obtain professional help with screening your home for hazards and making repairs.  A lead risk assessment will tell you if you have hard-to-find hazards such as lead dust, lead in bare soil, or lead in your water to prioritize any repairs you can have done.  Note that lead dust is a common source of exposure for young children because of their crawling and hand-to-mouth behaviors.  A lead-based paint inspection will tell you where the lead-based  paint is in your home so you know the places (such as windows, doors, trim, porches, and other locations) to maintain and avoid disturbing.  An abatement contractor knows how to eliminate hazards identified by either type of evaluation.

  • Wash your child’s hands, toys, bottles, pacifiers,  and any other items your child often puts in his or her mouth.

  • Regularly clean floors, windowsills, and dusty places with wet mops or wet cloths to pick up any dust. Use two buckets - one for soap and one for rinsing.

  • Use only cold tap water for making baby formula, drinking and cooking. Let the water run for a few minutes first.

  • Avoid using certain products from other countries, such as health remedies, eye cosmetics (e.g. kohl, kajal, surma) candies, spices, snack foods, clay pots and dishes, painted toys, and children’s jewelry. These items may contain high levels of lead.  For more examples click HERE.

  • Remove shoes before entering your home.

  • Any household member who does construction work or other work that may involve lead should remove work clothes before entering; wash them separately.

Q: Who can I contact for more information?

A: There are several reliable sources for more information:

  • Call 1-877-LEAD-SAFE for more information about childhood lead poisoning and precautions for home renovation work.

  • Contact your local health department if you are concerned that your child has been exposed.

  • Visit the National Center for Healthy Housing website or call the toll-free number 1-877-312-3046.

  • Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website or call the toll-free number 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).

Ohio Department of Health (ODH)

Forming a Local Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Workgroup 

Keep Your Child Safe from Lead Poisoning 

Mantenga a su Nino Fuera de Peligro intoxicación con plomo

Lead Investigations  

Investigaciones sobre el Plomo

Your Child Had a Blood Lead Test: What Does it Mean?

Lead Testing in Local Health Departments

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Lead and a Healthy Diet

Lead in Your Home: A Parent’s Reference Guide

Ten Tips to Protect Children from Pesticide and Lead Poisonings around the Home 

US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)


Mailing Address:
Ohio Department of Health
Bureau of Environmental Health and Radiation Protection
Ohio Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
246 N High St
Columbus, OH 43215

Telephone: 1-877-LEADSAFE (532-3723)

Fax: (614) 728-6793

Last Updated: 12/7/15