A blood lead test is the only way to find out if your child has a high lead level. Most children with high levels of lead in their blood have no symptoms. Although lead hazards in pre-1978 housing are the most common risk to young children, lead can be found in many products and places.

A child’s risk of exposure changes rapidly as they become more mobile. One test is not an indicator of future exposure or blood lead level. There are two types of blood lead tests used to see if your child has lead poisoning: capillary and venous. A capillary blood lead test is used as a screening tool to tell if your child has been exposed to lead in the past 3-4 months. A small amount of blood is taken from the capillaries close to the skin in your child’s arm, finger or heel to find out how much lead they have in their blood. If this level is high, a venous test is recommended since it’s more accurate than a capillary test.

At a minimum, Iowa HHS recommends that all children in Iowa get a blood lead test at 1 and 2 years of age and tested annually up to 6 years in age based on their risk factors.  Ask your toddler’s health care provider to collect a blood lead sample every year, especially in their first couple of years of life when their bodies are growing and developing.

Your child's health care provider can provide information on preventing or minimizing lead exposure through regular hand washing, proper nutrition, home cleanliness, and other practices a parent can use in the home and anywhere the child spends time.  Additional testing may be recommended by your provider to determine if ongoing exposure to lead is occurring.

Blood Lead Testing Questions

In Iowa, legislation requires all children entering kindergarten have at least one blood lead level test. The goal of this legislation is to protect Iowa children under the age of 6 years from lead damage in their developing brains and nervous systems, and to reduce the number of children with developmental and learning problems related to lead exposure.

What if I do not want my child to have a blood lead test?

The Iowa Administrative Code 641, Chapter 67, BLOOD LEAD TESTING, exclude children for blood lead testing due to religious reasons and for children determined by the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services to be at very low risk for elevated blood lead levels. Iowa HHS grants two types of exemptions to those who meet the criteria for a Religious and Low Risk Exemption.

1. The religious exemption is for kindergartners whose parents/guardians believe a blood lead test conflicts with their genuine and sincere religious belief.

2. The low risk exemption is for kindergartners who meet certain criteria regarding, among others, place of residence, parents’/guardians’ occupation, child’s mouthing habits and travel outside of the U.S.

To learn more about these exemptions, go to the Exemptions to Mandatory Blood Lead Testing web page or call Iowa HHS at (800) 972-2026 or (515) 281-3225.  If Deaf Relay (Hearing or Speech Impaired), call 711 (800)-735-2942.

BEFORE you complete the Certificate of Religious Exemption or Very Low Risk, read the requirements for each of the exemptions and make sure your child meets such requirements. If he/she does not meet them, DO NOT APPLY to these exemptions.

Religious Exemption

Low Risk Exemption