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Having Your Child Tested

Produced by Jeffrey Feuer and Benjamin Hiller
Reviewed May 2017

Most children who develop lead poisoning do not look or act sick. Children who seem perfectly healthy may still be lead poisoned. Damage to the brain and nervous system can be very difficult to detect without a medical exam. A blood test by your doctor is the only sure way to know if your child has lead poisoning.

When Should Children Be Tested?

Every child in Massachusetts must be tested for lead. The first blood test must be done between the ages of 9 and 12 months. Children must be tested again at ages 2 and 3. If you live in a high-risk neighborhood, your child must also be tested at age 4. Every child must have a blood lead test before they begin kindergarten.1

If you think you have seen your child with paint chips or paint dust on her hands, face, toys or clothing, or if you have noticed a lot of dust or chipping paint in your house or apartment, you should have your child tested right away.

Method of Testing

The test for lead is very simple and involves taking a small sample of blood from a child. Community health centers, private clinics and doctors can perform this test, although some of them may charge a fee. The cost of the test is usually covered if you have health insurance, including MassHealth. In addition, your local Board of Health may have information about where free blood tests for lead poisoning are available in your community.

A blood lead level tells you how much lead is in your child's body. Most children have lead levels under 5.2 Although your child may not look or act sick in any way, a blood lead level of 5 or more is not safe and requires medical attention. If your child's lead level is 5 or more, you should have your home tested for lead as soon as possible. A child with a blood lead level of 25 or more needs immediate medical treatment and may need to be hospitalized.

Treatment

There are different types of medical treatment for lead poisoning. A doctor may give your child iron pills, or medications or injections to remove the lead from the blood. Removing the lead from the blood is called "chelation." You may want to have your child treated by a doctor with special knowledge and experience in lead poisoning. Follow-up care can last for many months until your child's blood lead levels go down to a safe level. A doctor may also tell you to change your child's diet and add more foods with iron and calcium in them.

During and after treatment, your child will have to have blood tests to see if the blood lead levels have changed. If your child is lead poisoned, the state lead program or your local board of health must inspect your home for lead as soon as possible and any lead hazards on the property will have to be removed or repaired by your landlord.3

Endnotes

1 . 105 C.M.R. §460.050(E). Every child must provide proof of a lead screening in order to enter kindergarten.

2 Blood lead levels are determined by the amount of micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. A blood level of 10 means 10 micrograms per deciliter. 105 C.M.R. §460.050(D)(2).

3 . 105 C.M.R §§460.105, 460.110, 460.710(A), 460.750(B)(2), 460.751(A) and (B).

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