Health Encyclopedia

Adult Lead (Blood)

Does this test have other names?

Lead poisoning test, BLL

What is this test?

This test measures the levels of lead in your blood.

High levels of lead can be toxic. Complications include abdominal pain, constipation, a decline in thinking, and high blood pressure. Lead exposure can also cause reproductive problems. Women with high lead levels are more likely to have stillbirths or give birth to infants with lead poisoning. Men may have low sperm counts or abnormal sperm.

You may be exposed to lead through your work. Painting, battery manufacturing, and lead and zinc ore mining are a few jobs where lead poisoning has been reported. Although workplace hazards account for most cases of lead exposure, you can also come in contact with lead if your home has lead-based paint or you use lead-glazed dishes or cookware.

Why do I need this test?

You may need this test if your healthcare provider suspects that you have lead poisoning. Symptoms include:

  • Fatigue

  • Insomnia

  • Memory loss

  • Vomiting

In several cases, symptoms include loss of consciousness and seizures.

What other tests might I have along with this test?

Your healthcare provider may also order other tests to find out whether you have dangerous levels of lead in your body. One such test is an X-ray fluorescence test to measure the level of lead in your bones.

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your healthcare provider.

Results are given in micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL). The CDC says that blood levels in adults are considered high when they are greater than 10 mcg/dL. The CDC's Adult Blood Level Surveillance Program is a national effort to lower lead blood levels in adults to less than or equal to 10 mcg/dL.

If your results are high, it means you may have lead poisoning.

How is this test done?

The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your arm.

Does this test pose any risks?

Taking a blood sample with a needle carries risks that include bleeding, infection, bruising, or feeling dizzy. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight stinging sensation or pain. Afterward, the site may be slightly sore.

What might affect my test results?

Other factors aren't likely to affect your results.

How do I get ready for this test?

You don't need to prepare for this test. But be sure your healthcare provider knows about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illicit drugs you may use.

 



Medical Reviewers:

  • Taylor, Wanda, RN, PhD
  • Walton-Ziegler, Olivia, MS, PA-C