Allegheny County Elevated Blood Lead Level Rates

Lead is a neurotoxin commonly found in our daily lives. While lead has been eliminated from gasoline, household paint, and solder, you can still be exposed to lead from many different sources including dust containing lead from pre-1978 lead paint, paint chips, contaminated soils, water, ceramic plates, bowls, and glasses, and imported candy, toys, cosmetics, and jewelry

Lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has indicated that no safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, academic achievement, and other behavioral issues.

As of January 1, 2018, Allegheny County requires every child under age six to be tested for lead exposure. The first of two tests will be conducted when a child is approximately 9-12 months old, and the second test will take place around the child’s second birthday. According to the Allegheny County Health Department, 53% of County children born in 2016 were tested for lead between the ages of nine to 12 months. This share has risen from 30% of County children born in 2009.

Children are initially tested with a capillary, or “finger prick” blood test. If an elevated level of lead is found, a venous blood test will be administered to confirm the result. For more information on the testing methods, please see the Allegheny County Health Department’s Lead Exposure in Allegheny County report, released in September, 2018. The Allegheny County Health Department currently treats confirmed blood lead level tests with 5 µg/dL or more of lead as elevated. This measurement is based on the CDC’s reference level for public health action, established in May 2012.

If a child under age 6 tests with a confirmed blood lead level of 5 µg/dl and above, ACHD offers a free home inspection. The goal of this inspection, along with XRF readings, sampling of dust, soil, and water, is to help identify any sources of lead exposure in the home. The inspection includes identifying possible alternative sources of lead exposure from jewelry, toys, cosmetics, parent occupations and/or hobbies. Inspectors also educate the family about how good nutrition can mitigate absorption of lead and immediate steps the family can take to reduce lead exposure in the home. ACHD also offers free lead testing for the uninsured or underinsured at its Immunization clinic, and at WIC offices in McKeesport and Wilkinsburg.

The Allegheny Lead Safe Homes Program currently provides free home repairs to keep families safe from lead paint. This program will test for lead-based paint in the home and will aid with repairs and prevention education to Allegheny County homeowners or renters who meet income requirements and whose home is built before 1978. All work is done in a lead-safe manner. Eligible residents must either have a child under 6 years or a pregnant woman in the household.

For additional information about how to use this data accurately and responsibly, please refer to the County's data guide

Information appearing in this description was drawn from the following sources:

Lead Exposure in Allegheny County (September 2018 pdf report)

Allegheny County Health Department’s Lead Exposure Prevention (Website)

Allegheny County Health Department’s Lead Testing (Website)

Data about lead in Allegheny County (Website)

Allegheny County Health Department’s Approach to Lead (Website)

Allegheny County Lead Safe Homes program information (Website)

Allegheny County’s Article XXIII Blood Lead Testing Regulation (pdf document)

Data and Resources

Additional Info

Field Value
Public Access Level Comment

To protect individual privacy, only the rates are shown, not the number tested.

Temporal Coverage 2015 to present
Geographic Unit Census Tract
Data Notes
Related Document(s)
Frequency - Data Change Daily
Frequency - Publishing Annually
Data Steward Alyssa Monaghan
Data Steward Email Alyssa Monaghan