Lead poisoning in children

Am Fam Physician. 2010 Mar 15;81(6):751-7.


The prevalence and severity of childhood lead poisoning have been greatly reduced since the removal of lead from paint and gasoline in the 1970s. Despite these efforts, approximately 310,000 U.S. children younger than five years have elevated blood lead levels. Health care professionals should perform targeted screening for lead poisoning in children who are Medicaid-enrolled or -eligible, foreign born, or identified as high risk by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) location-specific recommendations or by a personal risk questionnaire. Venous sampling is the preferred method for measuring blood lead levels, but a carefully collected finger-stick sample is an acceptable alternative. Capillary samples of elevated levels should be confirmed by a venous sample. The CDC recommends that the threshold for follow-up and intervention of lead poisoning be a blood lead level of 10 microg per dL or higher. Recommendations for treatment of elevated blood levels include a thorough environmental investigation, laboratory testing when appropriate, iron supplementation for iron-deficient children, and chelation therapy for blood lead levels of 45 microg per dL or more. Prevention consists of education and avoidance of lead-contaminated products.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Lead Poisoning / diagnosis*
  • Lead Poisoning / etiology*
  • Lead Poisoning / prevention & control
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Public Health Practice
  • Risk Factors