Lead is a metal found in the earth that can be poisonous. It was used in household paint (until 1978) and in gasoline (until the early 1980s). The most common sources of lead paint are paint in older homes and the lead dust and soil that comes from the aging lead paint.
Children age 6 and younger are most at-risk for lead poisoning. Their bodies and brains are more sensitive because they are still growing. If a child becomes poisoned by lead, it can cause problem's with a child's growth, behavior, and ability to learn.
The New York State Department of Health requires doctors to test all children with a blood lead test at age 1 and again at age 2 years. For children up to age 6 years, your doctor or nurse should ask you at every well child visit about ways your child may have had contact with lead. If your child has not been tested for lead, you should check with your doctor or call the Health Department at 315-253-1560.
The amount of lead found in a child's blood is called a blood lead level. Blood lead tests tell how many micrograms (millionth of a gram) of lead are in each deciliter (tenth of a liter) of a child's blood (µg/dL). A blood lead level will tell if a child has been exposed to lead.
To find out how much lead is in a child's blood, a small amount of blood is taken from a child's arm, finger, or heel. Taking blood from a child's finger or heel is called a finger or heel-stick or a capillary test. Sometimes the blood from a capillary test may give a false high result due to lead on the skin or in the environment (contamination). If a capillary test is ≥5, a venous blood lead test (from an arm vein) will need to be taken to confirm the blood lead level.
A blood lead level ≥5 is considered elevated. If your child's blood lead level is elevated, a representative from the Cayuga County Health Department will contact you to provide guidance and education and schedule a home visit with our Environmental Health Division to help you identify and reduce lead hazards in your child's environment in order to prevent any further exposure. For additional information on home visits, see the Residential Lead Assessment web page.
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