Annual blood lead testing

Children tested in Minnesota:

Children under age 6, and especially those aged 1 to 3, are most vulnerable to lead exposure. Testing the blood lead levels of children can help catch lead exposure before it has the most harmful effects.

Lead testing is not universal in Minnesota. Children with risk factors for lead exposure (such as older housing or poverty status) are targeted for testing. This includes all children who live in Minneapolis or St. Paul and all children who receive services from Minnesota Care or Medical Assistance, as well as any child who lives in or regularly visits a home, childcare, or other building built before 1978. Learn more about MDH Blood Lead Guidelines.

Indicators on this page track blood lead testing by test year (annual method) – the year that the blood lead test was performed – and blood lead tests in children up to 6 years of age, unless noted otherwise. Children could appear in multiple test years as long as the child was under 6 years at the time of the test.


Children tested in Minnesota annually, by region

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Among children tested under either 6 or 3 years of age. The Minnesota trend line is the statewide average and includes all Minnesota children. The Metro trend line includes children living in the 7-county Twin Cities metropolitan area. Source: MDH Blood Lead Information System. 

The annual percent of children under 6 years that are tested for blood lead has doubled from 2000 to present, from about 10% in 2000 to over 20% in 2019. The increase was even larger for children tested under 3 years, rising from 14% in 2000 to about 40% in 2019 (see "<3 Years Chart" tab).

Lead testing is not universal in Minnesota. See above for a description of which children are screened in Minnesota based on risk factors.

In recent years, children in the 7-county Twin Cities metropolitan area ("Metro") were slightly more likely to be tested than children in greater Minnesota, which represents children living in Minnesota outside of the metro.


Children tested at 1-year and 2-year well child visits in Minnesota annually

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Among children tested for blood lead. Source: MDH Blood Lead Information System.

In 2019, about 70% of all children were tested around the time of their 1-year well-child visit (9-18 months), and that number has remained steady for the past decade. In 2019, just over half (53%) were tested around the time of their 2-year well-child visit (18-36 months), and that number has slightly increased over the past decade. This is a trend in the right direction as it is important to test 2-year-olds for lead exposure. 

MDH guidelines recommend testing children who are at risk for lead exposure at both one and two years of age, as well as children aged three to six who have not been previously tested. Children tested at one year of age should be tested again at two years even if the blood lead level was low at the one-year test since risk behaviors related to lead exposure change as a child develops. In Minnesota, only about half of children tested at one year of age are tested again at two years.

Why should two-year-old children be tested?

Two-year-old children are more mobile and interact with their environments differently than one-year-old children. This can change the risk for lead exposure between these ages, even if the child’s house or other risk factors do not change. This is supported by MDH surveillance data; about 0.5% of children with non-elevated (<5 mcg/dL) blood lead levels measured at one year of age who were tested at two years of age have a confirmed elevated blood lead level at the time of the second test. This indicates that the practice of not testing children at two years of age may lead to lead-exposed children going undetected.


To see other tables and charts on childhood lead exposure, see:

 

 

Last updated October 2020.