The Hygienic Laboratory is the central testing laboratory for Iowa Department of Public Health's (IDPH) Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. As such, it tests for the presence of lead in blood, and is the state's reference laboratory for the confirmation of all capillary lead screening results. It uses venous blood testing by graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry (GFAAS) or inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS).
Lead affects almost every part of the body, especially the developing brain and neurological systems of children. Learning and behaviors have been demonstrated to be affected even by low level exposure (< 10 mg/dL) to lead. Studies show that a child's IQ drops 2 to 3 points for every increase of 10 mg/dL of lead measured in a child's blood.
Most lead exposure comes from paint containing lead. The major source of leaded paint is housing built before 1960. Soil also contains lead from old paint dust and tetraethyl lead from leaded gasoline. In addition to testing for lead in blood, the Hygienic Laboratory has tested for lead in paint on toys, soft-sided lunch boxes, home remedies and candy wrappers. Many of these sources of lead came from products brought into the United States from other countries with less strict controls on manufacturing.
Lead exposure also can come from lead shot used in gun shooting ranges and lead weights used for fishing and to balance vehicle wheels.
The IDPH's prevention program works with local public health agencies to provide public health services, including:
- blood lead screening for children 6 months to 6 years of age;
- case management and follow-up of children identified with elevated blood lead concentrations; and
- educational and outreach activities regarding childhood lead poisoning in communities across the state.