Livingston County will be closed on Monday, May 27th in honor of Memorial Day.

What is Lead Poisoning?

Lead is a toxic metal that can cause serious health effects. Lead exposure occurs when a person touches, swallows, or breathes in lead or lead dust. The health effects of lead exposure are more harmful to children less than 6 years of age because their bodies are still developing and growing rapidly. And since young children often put their hands or other objects into their mouths, they are more likely to be exposed to lead or lead dust. Exposure to lead can seriously harm a child’s health, including damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems, and hearing and speech problems.

What Are Common Lead Exposures?

If your home was built before 1978 there is a good chance you have leaded paint in some areas of the house. The best method is to hire a lead inspector. The list of certified lead inspectors can be found here.

  • Putting their hands or other lead-contaminated objects such as kids jewelry, charms and amulets in their mouths.
  • Ingesting lead-contaminated dust.
  • Eating paint chips found in homes from peeling or flaking lead-based paint.
  • Drinking water that comes from lead pipes
  • Playing in lead-contaminated soil.
  • Eating food prepared in contaminated containers such as ceramic glazed pottery, eating food made with lead-containing imported spices such a turmeric and lozeena (used as food coloring) or candies/candy wrappers.
  • Using ceremonial make-up or powders that contain lead.

Adults may also unknowingly bring lead dust into their home from their jobs or hobbies. During pregnancy, women may crave non-food items (pica) that may contain lead, such as soil, clay, or crushed pottery

An Invisible Threat

Lead is an invisible threat and it is especially unsafe for children. The only way to detect if a child has lead is to get them tested. The Livingston County Health Department recommends that all children under the age of 6 be tested for lead. Talk to your healthcare provider about lead testing.

Who Should Get Tested?

The CDC recommends that all children ages 1 and 2 be screened for lead poisoning. In October 2023, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill to ensure that all children aged 12 and 24 months are tested for lead poisoning, allowing for an opt-out for parents. This legislation will provide access to lead testing for all children regardless of insurance status and help parents identify any lead exposures and ensure children can receive treatment.  A blood lead test can be used to tell you if you have a recent or ongoing exposures to lead.

 

Children who are 3 to 6 years old should be tested for lead if they have not been tested for lead before, and if they:

Live or spend time in pre-1978 housing

Have a sibling or playmate who has had lead poisoning

Where to Get Tested

Child with Medicaid or No Insurance

The Livingston County Health Department provides lead testing to children with Medicaid, children enrolled in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program, and children who are uninsured. Call 517-546-9850 to schedule an appointment.

Child with Private Insurance

If you have private insurance and have concerns about your child’s exposure to lead, contact your child’s pediatrician.

Adult with Medicaid, Private Insurance or No Insurance

If you are an adult with concerns about your own lead exposure, contact your healthcare provider about getting a blood lead test.

Frequently Asked Questions

How could my child be exposed to lead?

  • Putting their hands or other lead-contaminated objects such as kids jewelry, charms and amulets in their mouths.
  • Ingesting lead-contaminated dust.
  • Eating paint chips found in homes from peeling or flaking lead-based paint.
  • Drinking water that comes from lead pipes.
  • Playing in lead-contaminated soil.
  • Eating food prepared in contaminated containers such as ceramic glazed pottery, eating food made with lead-containing imported spices such a turmeric and lozeena (used as food coloring) or candies/candy wrappers.
  • Using ceremonial make-up or powders that contain lead.

Adults may also unknowingly bring lead dust into their home from their jobs or hobbies.

How can lead get into the body?

  • Breathing in lead dust (especially during activities such as renovations, repairs, or painting);
  • Swallowing lead dust that settles in food, food preparation surfaces, floors, window sills, and other places;
  • Eating paint chips or soil that contains lead.
  • The most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, faucets, and fixtures.
  • Other sources of lead include some metal toys, wooden toys or furniture painted with lead-based paint, some metal-containing jewelry, and lead-glazed pottery or porcelain, some candies, spices or make-up.
  • Lead may also be brought into the home on work clothes, shoes, and hair.

What are some of the health effects from lead poisoning?

Lead exposure could cause a variety of health effects depending on the amount of lead and the length of time and age of the person exposed to lead. Young children are more susceptible to toxic effects of lead, which can cause behavioral issues, learning disability, abdominal pain and growth retardation.

Lead poisoning occurs when lead enters the bloodstream and builds up to toxic levels. Many different factors such as the source of exposure, length of exposure, and underlying susceptibility (e.g., child’s age, nutritional status, and genetics) affect how the body handles foreign substances.

No safe blood lead level in children has been identified.

What is an elevated blood level?

An elevated blood lead level is defined by the “blood lead reference value (BLRV)”. The BLRV identifies children with blood lead levels that are higher than most children’s levels, based on data from a national survey. On October 28, 2021, the CDC updated the BLRV from 5 to 3.5 micrograms per deciliter.

What happens if my child's blood lead test comes back elevated?

If a person has an elevated blood lead level, the goals are to:

  • identify the source of lead
  • stop the lead exposure, and
  • determine any other tests or follow-up that might be needed.

The Livingston County Health Department can help you find additional resources. A public health nurse will connect with you to accomplish these goals.

What are some lead prevention tips?

Keep the following in mind when trying to prevent lead poisoning:

  • Do not allow children to chew or mouth painted surfaces that may have been painted with lead-based paint (homes built before 1978).
  • Take precautions to avoid exposure to lead dust when remodeling or renovating.
  • Keep floors, window sills, and other surfaces dust and dirt free.
  • Wash children’s hands and faces often to remove lead dusts and soil.
  • Always use cold tap water for drinking and cooking, and run water for 30 seconds before using it. Use a filter certified to remove lead if your home has or may have lead plumbing or fixtures.

Where can I get my water tested for lead?

Brighton Analytical
2105 Pless Drive
Brighton, MI 48116
(810) 229-7575

Water Tech
718 S. Michigan Ave
Howell, MI 48843
(517) 548-2505

Additional Resources

Last Modified April 11, 2024

Livingston County Health Department Logo
Matt Bolang

Matt Bolang
Health Officer

Phone

(517) 546-9850

Hours

Monday – Friday
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Closed County Holidays

Location

2300 E Grand River Ave
Suite 102
Howell, MI 48843

Fax

(517) 546-6995