Programs to screen for lead poisoning focus on finding children or adults who are likely to be exposed to lead. Some geographic areas are more likely to be at risk for lead exposure. Age of housing is an important factor in determining risk, because older homes tend to have lead-based paint. If lead exposure is likely, then blood tests for infants and young children will be recommended to measure blood lead levels.
Talk to your child's doctor about whether your child is at risk. During a routine health examination, the risk for lead exposure can be evaluated by answering questions about family members' living and working conditions. The doctor may then decide whether blood lead levels should be measured.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) requires companies to test the blood of employees who work with lead. CCOHS sets industry standards to protect workers.
Adults who do not work with lead usually are not tested for lead poisoning. If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, you may want to ask your doctor about your risk for lead poisoning. 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.
Children should be checked, no matter what their age, if they have been exposed to lead or if they have symptoms that could be caused by lead poisoning.
If the answers to the following questions are "yes" or "I don't know," a lead test may need to be done.
- Does your child live in or regularly visit a house or building that was built before 1976? This question could apply to a facility such as a home daycare centre or the home of a babysitter or relative.
- Does your child have a sibling or playmate who now has or has had lead poisoning?
- Does your child live in or regularly visit a house built before 1976 that has recently been (within the last 6 months) or is currently being renovated or remodelled?
Your local health unit or provincial ministry of health can provide information on testing recommendations in your area.
Current as of: December 9, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: John Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics
Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
R. Steven Tharratt, MD, FACP, FCCP - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine