Blood lead testing by birth year

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.

Determining the number of children tested for blood lead before they are 3 years old is important to measure trends and identify disparities in testing coverage among those most at risk.

Lead testing was not universal in Minnesota until 2023. Children with risk factors for lead exposure (such as older housing or poverty status) have historically been targeted for testing in Minnesota. This included all children living in Minneapolis or St. Paul and all children receiving services from Minnesota Care or Medical Assistance. The Childhood Blood Lead Screening Guidelines for Minnesota were updated in 2022 to recommend universal screening for all children at 12 and 24 months of age.

Indicators on this page track blood lead testing by birth year (cohort method) and include blood lead tests up to 3 years of age.

Children tested in Minnesota, by birth year

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Children tested by 3 years of age. The Minnesota trend line is the statewide average and includes all children in the state. The Metro trend line represents children living in the 7-county Twin Cities metropolitan area. Source: MDH Blood Lead Information System.

The most recent birth cohort to have been observed for a full three years is children born in 2018. The percent of children tested increased from about 42% among children born in 2000 to about 80% among children born in recent years. Testing coverage rates vary slightly across regions (slightly higher in the 7-county Twin Cities Metro region and slightly lower in Greater Minnesota).

Children tested at 1-year and 2-year well child visits in Minnesota, by birth year

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Children tested by 3 years of age. Source: MDH Blood Lead Information System.

In recent years, about 70% of children were tested around the time of their 1-year well-child visit (9-18 months) and about 44% were tested around the time of their 2-year well-child visit (18-36 months). Only about a third of children (35%) were tested at both their 1- and 2-year well-child visits.

Beginning in 2023, MDH guidelines recommend screening all children in Minnesota for lead exposure at both one and two years of age. At-risk children aged three to 17 years of age who have not been previously screened should also be screened. 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, about half of children tested around one year of age were tested again at two years in recent 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; among children who had an elevated blood lead level at two years of age, 40% had been tested and had a non-elevated test at one year of age.

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

Last updated June 2023