We understand that parents may have lots of questions about lead poisoning. This page contains resources for parents looking to find out more about lead testing, as well as what happens after a blood lead test is drawn. Please click the link on the right side of this page to download a PDF for parents with general information about lead and lead testing.
Preventing Lead Poisoning
Most children with lead poisoning do not show signs and symptoms right away. The only reliable way to know if your child has been exposed to lead is to get them tested. See the "Getting a Lead Test" tab for more information. For more information about why lead is harmful to health, see our About Lead page.
Take these steps to prevent your child from being exposed to lead in your home/environment:
- Wash your child’s hands and toys, as well as their 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. Never use a home vacuum cleaner to clean up suspected lead hazards, even if it has a HEPA filter.
- You can rent a professional-grade HEPA Vacuum that can safely be used to clean up suspected lead hazards. See this page for more information about this free rental program.
- Use only cold tap water for making baby formula, drinking, and cooking. Let the water run for a few minutes before you use it.
- Avoid 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.
- Remove work clothes before entering the house, for any household member who does construction or other work that may involve lead. Wash these clothes separately from other items.
- Look out for peeling paint in houses built before 1978 (when lead was banned in house paint). If you rent your home, report it to your landlord so that repairs can get made (and call code enforcement or a legal aid society if there is no response). If you own your home, repair it safely. To find out more about repairing peeling paint safely, see our For Homeowners and Renters page.
- Be careful during renovations. 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 certified by the Environmental Protection Agency to perform lead work.
- Get 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. 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. See our Lead Licensure program page for more information on finding a local professional.
Getting a Lead Test
The best way to know if your child has an elevated blood lead level is to get them tested for lead. Most children with lead poisoning do not show any immediate signs or symptoms. Talk to your doctor about getting your child tested for lead.
Children should be tested at age 1 and 2 years, or up to age 6 if no previous test has been done, based on the following criteria:
- If your child is on Medicaid, your child must be tested.
- If your child resides in a high-risk ZIP code (see the link below for the list), he/she must be tested.
- If the answer is “yes” or if you don't know the answer to any of these questions, test your child:
- Does your child live in or regularly visit a home, child care facility, or school built before 1950?
- Does your child live in or regularly visit a home, child care facility, or school built before 1978 that has deteriorated paint?
- Does your child live in or regularly visit a home built before 1978 with recent, ongoing, or planned renovation/remodeling?
- Does your child have a sibling or playmate that has or did have lead poisoning?
- Does your child come in frequent contact with an adult who has a lead-related hobby or occupation?
- Does your child live near an active/former lead smelter, battery recycling plant, or other industry known to generate airborne lead dust?
For a link to a PDF with these testing recommendations and a list of high-risk ZIP codes, click here.
To watch a video about lead testing, click here.
After Getting Tested
There is no safe level of lead in the body.
Any exposure to lead is potentially harmful for your child. Ohio uses the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation to define an "elevated" blood lead level. This reference level for lead is 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (µg/dL). This was chosen not because values below 5 µg/dL are safe, but instead because the CDC identified that 97.5 percent of the population has a blood lead level below five, and 2.5 percent have a blood lead level of five or above.
Ask your doctor for the specific result of your child's last blood test.
- If the number is lower than 5 ug/dL, this is not considered an elevated blood lead level. Your doctor will probably not recommend another lead test immediately. They may decide to test your child again if any of the child's risk factors change, or as he/she grows and develops new habits.
- If the number is 5 ug/dL or higher, testing should be repeated to confirm the child's blood lead level and to monitor it over time. 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 in the household get tested as well.
What happens after a high test?
All blood lead tests for Ohio children are sent to the Ohio Department of Health. If your child has a confirmed blood lead test with a level of 5 µg/dL or higher while less than six years old, a Public Health Lead Investigation will be opened for them. Investigators from ODH or from your local health department will work with you to determine the sources of your child's lead exposure. Contact ODH for more information.
If the elevated blood lead level is 10 µg/dL or greater, this Public Health Lead Investigation will also include a risk assessment of the places where it is suspected that the child has been poisoned (usually your home). ODH or your local health department will take samples to identify lead hazards and let you know so that they can be fixed. Contact your local health department for more information.
There is currently a grant program at ODH that can help families with the cost of lead repair work. Check this out here, under the Home Repair tab.
There are several reliable sources for more information about lead:
- Contact your local health department if you are concerned that your child has been exposed to lead
- Call ODH at 1-877-LEAD-SAFE for more information about childhood lead poisoning and precautions for home renovation work
ODH Printed Materials
- Keep Your Child Safe from Lead Poisoning
- En Español/In Spanish: Mantenga a su Niño Fuera de Peligro de Intoxicación con Plomo
- Public Health Lead Investigations
- En Español/In Spanish: Investigaciones Sobre el Plomo
- Your Child Had a Blood Lead Test: What Does it Mean?
- National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH): visit their website or call their toll-free number 1-877-312-3046
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): visit their website or call their toll-free number 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636)
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): visit their website or their Lead Information Center page
- Housing and Urban Development (HUD): visit their website
- Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR): visit their website