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Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Lead (Pb) Test

Lead (Pb) Test

Test Overview

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 taken from the vein, a finger (finger stick), or the heel (heel stick).

A person can be exposed to lead:

  • 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. 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

Why It Is Done

Testing for lead 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 who live in places where the chance of poisoning is high, such as in a large city.
  • Check for the amount of lead in people who live with or play with children who have lead poisoning.
How To Prepare

How To Prepare

  • In general, there's nothing you have to do before this test, unless your doctor tells you to.
  • Be sure to tell your doctor if you are using any herbal medicines.
How It Is Done

How It Is Done

Blood sample from a heel stick

A heel stick is used to get a blood sample from a baby. The baby's heel is poked, and several drops of blood are collected. Your baby may have a tiny bruise where the heel was poked.

Blood sample from a vein

A health professional uses a needle to take a blood sample, usually from the arm.

How It Feels

How It Feels

Blood sample from a heel stick

A brief pain, like a sting or a pinch, is usually felt when the lancet punctures the skin. Your baby may feel a little discomfort with the skin puncture.

Blood sample from a vein

When a blood sample is taken, you may feel nothing at all from the needle. Or you might feel a quick sting or pinch.

Risks

Risks

Heel stick

There is very little risk of a problem from a heel stick. Your baby may get a small bruise at the puncture site.

Blood test

There is very little chance of having a problem from this test. When a blood sample is taken, a small bruise may form at the site.

Results

Results

Each lab has a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should show the range that your lab uses for each test. The normal range is just a guide. Your doctor will also look at your results based on your age, health, and other factors. A value that isn't in the normal range may still be normal for you.

Results are usually available within 1 week.

Your doctor will likely want to do more evaluation and another blood lead level test if: footnote 1, footnote 2

  • Your child age 1 to 5 years has a blood lead level of 5 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) or higher (or 0.24 micromoles per liter (mcmol/L) or higher).
  • Your older child or you have a blood lead level around 10 mcg/dL or higher (or 0.48 mcmol/L or higher).
References

References

Citations

  1. Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). Announcement: Response to the Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention report, low level lead exposure harms children: A renewed call for primary prevention. MMWR, 61(20): 383. Also available online: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6120a6.htm?s_cid=mm6120a6_w.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

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