Testing - What to Expect


We recommend contacting your child’s pediatrician or health care provider who can order the testing for your child’s blood lead level. For more information:


A health care provider will test your child's blood for lead. To find out how much lead is in a child’s blood, a small amount of blood is taken from the child’s arm or finger.

Taking blood from a child’s finger is called a finger-stick or a capillary test. You may be able to get the results that day. If your child’s lead level is considered high, you will be asked to follow up on the capillary test with a venous blood test, to confirm that the level is high.

The other test is where blood is taken from an arm vein (venous blood test). It involves drawing blood into a tube and sending it to a lab. There could be a wait-time of several days to receive the results back from the lab.


The amount of lead found in a child’s blood is called a blood lead level. There is no safe level of lead for children. 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). Blood lead levels can range from typical (below 2 µg/dL) to very high (above 20 µg/dL).


If your child’s blood lead level is at or above the level of concern (3.5 µg/dL), your health care provider should talk to you about how to reduce the level. Then, they will test your child’s blood lead level every few months until the level drops below the level of concern.

If your child’s blood lead level is extremely high (generally at or above 43 µg/dL), your doctor will treat your child with medicine to lower the amount of lead in the blood. The use of the drug chelation therapy is reserved only for children that have an extremely high blood-lead level. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends drug chelation therapy should only be undertaken under careful medical supervision in a center capable of providing appropriate intensive care services. This procedure is not without risks. It is important to discuss these risks with your health care provider.

Public health intervention

If your child has received a blood lead test and the results are at or exceed the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention "reference level" (3.5 micrograms per deciliter), your family is eligible to have a free phone consultation from a Snohomish County Health Department public health nurse to help identify potential sources of lead that may be contributing to your child's lead level.

Part 1:

A phone call with a public health nurse who will ask a set of questions focusing on known lead risk factors. These questions are designed to help narrow down the list of potential sources of lead that may be contributing to your child’s lead level. After potential sources of lead have been identified, a more in-depth look at those sources can take place. Health education will be done on the risks of lead exposure, how to decrease exposure, and prevention measures. Health education materials on lead risk and prevention will be mailed to you.

Part 2:

If, after the phone call with the public health nurse, it is determined that a site investigation is needed, the site investigation will be scheduled with the Public Health Nurse, Environmental Health specialist, or both. To further examine potential sources of lead in your home, a thorough walk-through will be done. The walk-through occurs inside and outside the home. Key items that will be looked at are often determined by the phone investigation but could include paint condition, surfaces, dishes, cookware, spices, and toys.

Part 3:

Optional: Samples may be collected to further identify or confirm suspected sources of lead present in the home. Types of samples that may be collected include paint chips, dust wipes, soil, and/or water. Any samples that are obtained will be submitted to a laboratory for analysis at no cost to the family.

Health Department staff will communicate the results with you and any actions that should be taken.

Part 4:

The Public Health Nurse will follow-up with you and your child's healthcare provider until your child’s blood lead level decreases to below 3.5 µg/dL.