Measuring Blood Lead Levels

Blood lead is measured in units called micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL).

A microgram is a unit of weight. There are one million micrograms in one gram.

Blood Lead = Mcg/dL
Microgram = 1 millionth of a gram (paperclip size) 
Deciliter is about 1/2 cup

A small paper clip weighs about one gram. If you were to split a paper clip into one million pieces, one of those pieces would be the weight of a microgram.

A deciliter is a unit of volume and is equal to one tenth of a liter, or a little less than half a cup.

Examples of Blood Lead Levels: 

  1. An average newborn has 1 cup of blood in their body, so a blood lead level of 1 mcg/dL in a newborn would be approximately two-millionths of a gram of lead in their bloodstream. 
  2. An average child weighing around 40 lbs will have roughly 16 cups of blood in their body. In this case, a blood lead level of 1 mcg/dL would be approximately thirty-two millionths of a gram of lead in the bloodstream.

Although a blood lead level of 1 mcg/dL may seem small, no amount of lead in the body is considered safe for young children.