This test measures the amount of lead in a person's blood. Lead is a
poisonous (toxic) metal that can damage the brain and other parts of the body.
A lead test may be done on blood drawn from the vein, a finger (finger
stick), or the heel (heel stick).
A person can be exposed to
- By eating or drinking lead-contaminated foods,
water, or other material (such as paint chips).
- By breathing dust
or smoke containing lead.
- Through skin contact with lead.
There is no safe age to be exposed to lead. Adults can have
lead poisoning, but it is most harmful to children
younger than age 6 (especially those younger than age 3) because it can
permanently affect their growth and development. A pregnant woman who is
exposed to lead can pass it to her baby
(fetus). Lead can also be passed to a baby through the
mother's breast milk.
Why It Is Done
A lead blood test is done to:
- Diagnose lead poisoning.
- See how
well treatment for lead poisoning is working.
- Look for lead
poisoning in people who work with lead or lead products or live in places where
the chance of poisoning is high, such as in a large city.
- Check the amount of lead in people who live with or play with children who have lead poisoning.
How To Prepare
No special preparation is required
before having this test.
Be sure to tell your doctor if you are
using any herbal medicines.
How It Is Done
Blood tests for lead should be done by a
lab experienced in
Blood sample from a heel stick
For a heel stick
blood sample, several drops of blood are collected from the heel of your baby.
The skin of the heel is first cleaned with alcohol and then punctured with a
small sterile lancet. Several drops of blood are collected in a small tube.
When enough blood has been collected, a gauze pad or cotton ball is placed over
the puncture site. Pressure is maintained on the puncture site briefly, and
then a small bandage is usually applied.
A heel stick must be done
carefully to prevent contamination of the sample from lead on the skin. If a
heel stick blood sample comes back positive for lead, a sample of blood from
your baby's vein will be tested to confirm the results.
Blood sample from a vein
The health professional
taking a sample of your blood will:
- Wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to
stop the flow of blood. This makes the veins below the band larger so it is
easier to put a needle into the vein.
- Clean the needle site with
- Put the needle into the vein. More than one needle stick
may be needed.
- Attach a tube to the needle to fill it with
- Remove the band from your arm when enough blood is
- Put a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as
the needle is removed.
- Put pressure on the site and then put on a