Clinician's Corner - Minnesota Department of Health

Child Lead Screening Quick Guide

On this page:
Risk Reduction
Full Provider Guide Chapter: Child Lead Screening


Lead Blood Test

  • Lead’s effects on children may occur with no overt outward symptoms and blood lead testing is the only way to determine whether exposure has occurred.
  • The MDH Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (MN CLPPP) recommends that all refugee children under 17 years of age arriving in Minnesota receive a blood lead test.
  • The blood lead level of concern in the U.S. is set at 10 μg/dl by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and MDH. However, the effects of lead depend on the dose.
  • If a capillary test is performed and is elevated, it must be confirmed with a venous test.

Risk Reduction

  • Most lead exposure for children in the U.S. is dust from deteriorated lead paint. Other sources are drinking water, soil, herbal remedies and spices, and “take-home” lead from a parent’s occupation or hobby.
  • To reduce exposure parents should wash children’s hands, pacifiers, bottles, and toys frequently with soap and water.
  • Lead education materials are available from MDH in Hmong, Karen, Spanish, and Somali.


  • The potential for toxic lead levels in refugees is increased by poor nutrition, environmental pollution and absent or lax environmental regulations in developing countries.
  • Refugee children continue to be at risk in the U.S. if living in sub-standard housing conditions. Home remedies, which might contain lead, may continue to be acquired from overseas and used in the states. This can include kitchen ceramic wares, spices, and foods (i, ii).
  • Refugee children have up to seven times the risk of lead poisoning compared with the general population of Minnesota children. MDH data suggest that up to 30 percent of newly arrived refugee children less than six years of age in Minnesota had elevated lead levels in past years.
  • High lead levels are associated with toxicity to all major organ systems, and even death, while lower levels are associated with deficits in neurological development and changes in behavior.

Full Provider Guide Chapter: Child Lead Screening


i. Zabel EW,Smith ME , O’Fallon A. Implementation of CDC refugee blood lead testing guidelines in Minnesota. Public Health Rep. 2008;123:111-116.

ii. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Refugee health guidelines: lead screening. Accessed Oct 29, 2009. Attention: Non-MDH link




Updated Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 01:04PM