Font Size:

Lead Safety

Frequently Asked Questions

What is lead?
Lead is a toxic metallic element used in many household and industrial items such as paint, brass fixtures, batteries, spices, cosmetics, leaded glass, ceramics, and plastics.
Why is lead dangerous?
The effects of lead-poisoning can be devastating. Lead poisoning occurs when lead has been introduced into the bloodstream by ingestion or inhalation of lead dust or fumes. Our bodies cannot distinguish lead from other important minerals our bodies need, like iron and calcium. The body will try to use lead in place of these helpful minerals. Lead can be deposited into the blood, and soft tissues including organs like the brain.
This can result in irreversible learning disabilities, lowered intelligence, and in extreme cases of high-level lead poisoning it can be fatal. People who are able to be pregnant and children under the age of six are at a high risk. Children, both unborn and born, have bodies which are still developing. Additionally, pregnant people are at a high risk for negative consequences from lead poisoning because it can cause harm to the baby and increase the risk of miscarriage and premature birth. Lead can be detrimental to humans, and animals, of all ages.
Where does lead come from in Wayne County?
Before 1979, 80.9% of homes all over Wayne County used lead-based paint because the color was bright and long lasting. When that paint begins to break down, it can become easier to ingest or inhale in the form of paint chips or dust. Likewise, when a homeowner does a do-it-yourself home repair or remodels without following proper procedures for lead safe renovations, they can unknowingly cause lead-based paint dust and chips to become issues. Another source of lead is lead pipes that supply water to your household. Lead pipes were used in water and wastewater systems for centuries due to their malleability, high durability, and corrosion resistance. Other exposures can come from certain jobs, hobbies, and imported goods.

How do you take lead home? | MDHHS
How does lead poisoning occur?

Children can get lead poisoning in some of the following ways:

  • Putting hands or toys with lead dust on them in their mouth or inhaling lead dust
  • Eating lead-based paint chips that peel off the wall, chewing on windows sills, door frames or any other lead painted surface

Adults can get lead poisoning by the following:

  • Inhaling lead dust or fumes during DIY home renovations in old homes, at work sites, or areas with a history of manufacturing
  • It is not common, but adults can also get lead poisoning from the ingestion of lead-based paint chips

Who is at risk for lead poisoning?


While children and those who are pregnant are at most risk, everyone can be affected by lead poisoning.

How do I know if my child should be tested for lead poisoning? Should I be tested for lead poisoning?
If you live in a home built before 1978, your children and you should be tested. This is because lead-based paint did not stop being used in homes until 1978. Children between the ages of nine months through five years are at the greatest risk for lead poisoning. Children with lead poisoning may not show signs of illness. Ask your healthcare provider to perform a blood test on your children to screen for lead in their blood. Ask the healthcare provider to explain the results. If you or your doctor has questions about the results, you should contact the Wayne County Department of Health, Human and Veterans Services.

Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home | US EPA
What is lead poisoning?
There is no amount of lead that is considered safe for the human body. In cases with lower amounts of lead in the body, lead poisoning can go unrecognized because there may be no obvious symptoms. Lead poisoning can affect nearly every part of the body. Calcium and iron used in the blood are affected by the presence of lead because the body tries to use lead in their place. Be sure to ask your provider about getting a blood iron test. Lead can be stored in bones for 15-30 years. It can be released during injury or pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children with blood lead levels of 3.5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) or greater require medical management to lower the blood lead level. Medical management includes family education about lead exposure prevention, assistance in identifying sources of lead exposure, and a possible environmental investigation.
For more information, please contact us or your healthcare provider.
Where can I get my child and/or myself tested, and how much would it cost?
Contact your private healthcare provider to arrange a lead screening for you or your child. Remember to see if there is a cost. Some private insurance policies cover the cost blood-lead level testing. Children covered by Medicaid are eligible for free screening as well as children enrolled in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.
Are animals at risk of lead poisoning?
Yes, if you suspect that your pet has been exposed to lead you can request a lead test from your veterinarian. These tests can be expensive. You can reduce your pet's risk of lead poisoning by using filtered water for their drinking water. Use faucets that are made to be safe for human consumption such as the kitchen sink and water dispenser on a refrigerator. You can also ensure that your pet does not have exposure to lead paint chips which they may try to eat.
What does the lead result mean?
Lead levels in the blood are measured in micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL). According to the CDC, a lead blood levels of 3.5 µg/dL is the reference level for children. A reference level is the current target that the CDC sets as we move toward eliminating lead poisoning in the US. The CDC has an ultimate goal of no child having a lead result that is 1.8 µg/dL or higher. In time once we met the goals for 3.5 µg/dL a lower reference level will be set. As a result, some health providers may not be aware of changes when this happens.
Please note, there is no safe level of lead for humans or animals.
My child already had a capillary (finger poke) test, why do they need to go for a blood draw?
A capillary (finger poke) is a screening test. This means that any capillary test which is 3.5 µg/dL or higher needs to be followed up by a venous test (blood draw from a vein -generally in the arm). A venous test tells us if the capillary was right and there is lead poisoning.
Are there any other tests I should make sure my child or I have?
Children with higher risk of lead should be tested for anemia. Low iron in the blood levels increase lead risk to your child.
What are some of the medical problems that can occur as a result of lead poisoning?

Children and young adults with high levels of lead in their bodies may experience:

  • Injury to the brain and nervous system
  • Behavior and learning problems
  • Slowed growth
  • Hearing loss, or poor hearing
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue, or excessive sleepiness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Increased aggression
  • Nausea
  • Wrist or foot drop
  • Significant loss of appetite
  • Anemia, or low iron levels in the blood
  • Seizures
  • Lead Colic - stomach issues that result in crying for more than three hours a day or are otherwise outside your child's usual behavior
  • Tremors
  • Miscarriage

Adults with high levels of lead in their bodies may experience:

  • Difficulties during pregnancy
  • Reproductive issues
  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive problems
  • Nerve disorders
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Kidney damage
Is there a cure for lead poisoning?
While there is no cure, there is management and prevention. The most crucial treatment for lead poisoning is to stop the exposure. Removing the source of lead from a person's environment helps to ensure a decline in blood-lead levels. The potential for negative health effects of lead poisoning increases the longer the exposure continues. At life threatening levels of 45 µg/dL or higher, medications are used under the supervision of a doctor to lower the blood-lead level at a hospital.
How is lead poisoning managed?

1) Work with nurse case manager to get information and connection to resources

Nurse Case Management | Wayne County

2) Get lead testing for your home and identify sources. See below for more information.
How can you manage a lead-based paint problem?

It is not recommended that the average homeowner, or untrained contractor, attempt to correct a lead-based paint problem. In too many cases, lead poisoning is a result of an inexperienced person attempting to remodel an older home or correct a lead-based paint problem.

There are two primary methods of lead hazard control*:

  • Abatement, or an activity designed to permanently eliminate lead-based hazards
    • Replacement of contaminated building components, such as windows, doors or other parts of the house with damaged lead-based paint, or contaminated soil with uncontaminated soil
    • Encapsulation using wood, vinyl, aluminum, tile, stone, cement, plaster, and special coatings to cover lead paint or lead contaminated soil on the exterior or interior of the house.
    • Removal of lead-based paint using methods such as sanding, scraping, chemical stripping, sandblasting, and heat guns
  • Interim Controls, or activities intended to make a dwelling lead-safe by temporarily controlling lead-based hazards
    • For lead-based paint hazards, examples of interim controls are specialized cleaning, and coating lead hazards with lead-safe house paint,
    • In situations where there is soil contamination, examples are laying garden mulch or landscape fabric, and planting grass.
*It is strongly recommended that you have credentialed professionals who are trained in the removal of lead-based paint to perform these tasks. Performing repairs involving lead-based paint without training or proper project containment can put you and your family at risk.

Lead Safe Renovation, Repair, and Painting

Don't Spread Lead
How does the Wayne County Medicaid Lead Safe Home Program (MLSHP) help?

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has awarded the Wayne County Health Department a grant to provide lead hazard control services to households in Highland Park and Hamtramck. We provide the following services based on need and eligibility:

  • Lead inspection/risk assessments to determine if lead hazards are present in the home
  • Water sampling, to determine if there are dangerous amounts of lead in your water
  • Lead abatement, to remove lead hazards from your home
  • Lead service line replacement, if harmful levels of lead are found in your water
Who is eligible?

Eligible homes must be:

  • Occupied by Medicaid enrollees
  • Located in Highland Park or Hamtramck
  • Occupied by a child 19 years of age and under or a pregnant individual
  • Built before 1978
MLSHP Application
What do I do if I do not live in Highland Park or Hamtramck?
If you live in Wayne County and are not a resident of the City of Detroit, you can apply for lead home services through the MDHHS program.

MDHHS Application for Lead Services (
Detroit residents can reach out to the City of Detroit's Health Department. Information about Detroit's lead program can be found here:

Lead Program | City of Detroit (
Who is eligible for the MDHHS program?
  • Household with a child, or where the child is a frequent visitor, with a venous 3.5 or higher
  • Must meet low-income requirements
For More Resources