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Lead investigation

Lead is a toxic material that can be found in the environment and inside our houses. Lead poisoning is preventable. Test your home, test your children.

Lead (Pb)

Lead is a heavy soft metal found in pipes, cable sheaths, batteries, solder, and shields. Lead and its compounds are toxic and can present a severe hazard to those who are overexposed to them. Until 1978, lead was added to paint to pro­mote adhesion, corrosion control, drying, and covering and was used extensively on exteriors and interiors. The only way to determine which building com­ponents are coated with lead paint is through an inspection for lead-based paint. Varnishes and glazes sometimes contained lead. People absorb lead from a variety of sources every day.

Health effects

Lead exposure could cause a variety of health effects depending on the amount of lead and the length of time and age of the person exposed to lead. Young children are more susceptible to toxic effects of lead, which can cause behavioral issues, learning disability, abdominal pain and growth retardation.

Lead poisoning occurs when lead enters the bloodstream and builds up to toxic levels. Many different factors such as the source of exposure, length of exposure, and underlying susceptibility (e.g., child’s age, nutritional status, and genetics) affect how the body handles foreign substances.

No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Here are important facts to know about lead exposure and its potentially harmful effects.

  • Lead is a toxic element, especially in young children. When absorbed into the body, it can result in damage to the brain and nervous system, learning and behavior problems, slow growth and development, and hearing and speech problems.
  • Lead poisoning is preventable! The key is preventing children from coming into contact with lead.
  • Lead can be found inside and outside the home. The most common source of exposure is from lead-based paint, which was used in many homes built before 1978. Children can be exposed by swallowing or breathing in lead dust created by old paint that has cracked and chipped, eating paint chips, or chewing on surfaces coated with lead-based paint, such as window sills.
  • There are simple steps that can be taken to protect family members from lead-based paint hazards in the home, such as regularly cleaning the home, washing children’s hands and toys often, and wiping shoes before entering the home.
  • If you live in a house built before 1978, a certified inspector or risk assessor can be hired to check your home for lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards.
  • Lead can also be found in drinking water. The most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, faucets, and fixtures.
  • Other examples of possible sources of lead include some metal toys or toys painted with lead-based paint, furniture painted with lead-based paint, some metal-containing jewelry, some imported items (i.e., health remedies, spices, foods and candies, cosmetics, powders or make-up used in religious ceremonies), and lead-glazed pottery or porcelain. 

Children can become exposed to lead by:

  • Putting their hands or other lead-contaminated objects such as kids jewelry, charms and amulets in their mouths.
  • Ingesting lead-contaminated dust.
  • Eating paint chips found in homes from peeling or flaking lead-based paint.
  • Drinking water that comes from lead pipes (corrosion of plumbing systems, for more information click here). 
  • Playing in lead-contaminated soil.
  • Eating food prepared in contaminated containers such as ceramic glazed pottery, eating food made with lead-containing imported spices such a turmeric and lozeena (used as food coloring) or candies/candy wrappers.
  • Using ceremonial make-up or powders that contain lead.

Adults may also unknowingly bring lead dust into their home from their jobs or hobbies.

During pregnancy, women may crave non-food items (pica) that may contain lead, such as soil, clay, or crushed pottery.​​

​​​​​​Get the facts

Many homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint. Lead from paint, paint chips, and dust can pose serious health hazards particularly to children and pregnant women.

Adults and children can get lead into their bodies by:

  • Breathing in lead dust (especially during activities such as renovations, repairs, or painting);
  • Swallowing lead dust that settles in food, food preparation surfaces, floors, window sills, and other places;
  • Eating paint chips or soil that contains lead.
  • The most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, faucets, and fixtures.
  • Other sources of lead include some metal toys, wooden toys or furniture painted with lead-based paint, some metal-containing jewelry, and lead-glazed pottery or porcelain, some candies, spices or make-up.
  • Lead may also be brought into the home on work clothes, shoes, and hair.

Get your home tested

If your home was built before 1978, you can get it tested for lead-based paint by:

  • A lead-based paint inspection that tells you if your home has lead-based paint and where it is located.
  • A lead risk assessment that tells you if your home currently has any lead hazards from paint, dust, or soil, and where they are located.
  • A combination inspection and risk assessment tells you if your home has any lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards and where they are located. Find list of certified lead inspectors/leas risk assessors here
  • Contact your water company to find out about testing your water.

Get your child tested

Children are more vulnerable to lead poisoning than are adults. Infants can be exposed to lead in the womb if their mothers have lead in their bodies. Macomb County Health Department recommends all children under age of 6 to be tested. The most reliable test for elevated blood lead level is blood drawing.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services considers 3.5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) or more to be an Elevated Blood Lead Level based on the reference levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

People can talk to their health care provider about getting a blood lead test for them and their loved ones if they’re concerned about a recent or ongoing lead exposure.

Please note: Most children who have lead poisoning do not look or act sick. Talk with your doctor about getting a lead test for your child if:

  • The child lives in or often visits a home built before 1978
  • The child lives with an adult whose job or hobby involves lead
  • The child’s caregiver uses home remedies that may contain lead
  • The child has pica behavior (Pica is an eating disorder that involves eating items (such as paint chips) that are not typically thought of as food, and does not contain significant nutritional value.)

Having a blood level above 3.5 µg/dL does not mean the child will get sick, but it does mean actions are needed to remove hazardous lead conditions found in the home. Removing lead hazards from homes can stop further exposure and lower blood lead levels. Talk to your healthcare provider about next steps if you or your child have elevated blood lead levels.

Ask your healthcare provider to explain the blood lead test results.

Lead in your home in Macomb County

If your home was built before 1978 there is a good chance you have leaded paint in some areas of the house. The best method is to hire a lead inspector. The list of certified lead inspectors can be found here

Macomb County Health Department responds to cases of elevated blood lead levels in children who reside in the County. Depending on the level, different actions will be taken to ensure a safe environment for the children. These steps include phone consultation, sending educational material (on proper cleaning, eating habits and proper diet) to the house, home visit by Nursing Department and performing full environmental inspection and investigation by Environmental Division, making recommendation and referring the case to the State of Michigan for lead abatement and replacement of house components that contain lead.

For more information please contact the Macomb County Health Department at 586-469-5236

Help to make your home and family Lead-Safe

Do you live in an old home and have old windows or peeling paint? If so, the State of Michigan’s Lead Safe Home Program offers lead testing and lead hazard control services to qualifying families through grants.

You may qualify if you:

  • Have a child under 6 or a pregnant female living in the home
  • Are a low-to-moderate income family
  • Live in a home built before 1978
  • Own or rent the home

You can access the Lead Safe Home Program application here.

Contact the State of Michigan’s Lead Safe Home Program with questions at (866) 691-5323 (toll-free).

Testing for lead in schools and daycares


Call us at 586-469-5236, weekdays, 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. or email us now.