Annual elevated blood lead levels: facts & figures

Children with elevated blood lead levels in Minnesota:

Indicators on this page use the year that the blood lead test was performed (annual method) and include any blood lead test that occurred that year up to 6 years of age, unless noted otherwise. Children could appear in multiple test years.

Children should be tested for lead

There is no safe level of lead. It is important to test for elevated blood lead levels (EBLLs) because lead exposure often occurs with no identifiable symptoms. Lead testing is not universal in Minnesota. Children with risk factors for lead exposure are targeted for testing. 

Elevated blood lead levels (EBLLs) among Minnesota children tested, by test year

Among children tested for blood lead under 6 years of age. The definition of an elevated blood lead level recently changed from 10 to 5 mcg/dL (micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood). Source: MDH Blood Lead Information System.

This chart shows the trend over time in children above the historic reference level of 10 mcg/dL as well as those more recently above the new reference level of 5 mcg/dL. The reference level was lowered in 2011 to identify children with levels much higher than most children. In 2015, about 9 children out of 1,000 children tested under 6 years of age had an elevated blood lead level (or about 1% of children tested).

Elevated blood lead levels (EBLLs) among Minnesota children tested by region

Among children tested for blood lead under 6 years of age. The definition of an elevated blood lead level recently changed from 10 to 5 mcg/dL (micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood). 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 except for the cities of Minneapolis or St. Paul. Source: MDH Blood Lead Information System. 

These charts show the percent of children with an elevated blood lead level in Minnesota, both statewide and for 3 different regions within the state.

  • The Minneapolis/St. Paul trend line represents children at a higher risk for lead exposure and MDH recommends children living within the city limits of Minneapolis or St. Paul receive blood lead testing at 1 and 2 years of age. In 2015, 2.0% of children in Minneapolis or St. Paul (or 20 of every 1,000 children) had an EBLL, which is double the statewide average and higher than any other region of Minnesota, despite a greater proportion of children likely tested. 
  • The Metro trend line represents children living in the 7-county Twinc Cities metropolitan area except the cities of Minneapolis or St. Paul. In 2015, children in this region had less than half a percent of children with an EBLL (or about 4 of every 1,000 children).
  • The Greater MN trend line represents children living in Minnesota outside of the metro. In 2015, less than a percent of children living in greater Minnesota had an EBLL (or about 9 of every 1,000 children).

The “5+ Chart” shows the trend in the percent of children above the current reference level of 5 mcg/dL. The “10+ Chart” shows the trend in the percent of children above the historic reference level of 10 mcg/dL. The percent of tested children with EBLLs greater than 5 mcg/dL has been about 1% since the new reference level was established in 2011. The percent of tested children with EBLLs greater than 10 mcg/dL has declined over time, both statewide and in the regions displayed.

Elevated blood lead levels (EBLLs) among Minnesota children tested, by EBLL category

Among children tested under 6 years of age. The definition of an elevated blood lead level recently changed from 10 to 5 mcg/dL (micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood). Source: MDH Blood Lead Information System.

This chart shows the annual number of children with an elevated blood lead level, for each category, among children tested prior to 6 years. Since the reference level lowered to 5 mcg/dL in 2011, children with levels 5-9 mcg/dL are only displayed starting in that test year.

The number of children with those higher blood lead levels has generally declined over time. Though very few children test in the highest ranges of blood lead levels, these levels are associated with additional and more extreme health effects, such as extreme problems with brain function called encephalopathy, severe neurological damage, coma, and even death.

However, there is no safe level of lead. In 2015, there were over 500 children tested under 6 years of age with an elevated level between 5 and 10 mcg/dL.

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