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Illinois Lead Program 2019 Annual Surveillance Report

Executive Summary

This is the Illinois Lead Program’s 26th annual surveillance report of childhood lead poisoning prevention activities within the state of Illinois and encompasses information for the period of January through December 2019. This report is intended to serve as a standard reference for legislators; community-based organizations; city, state, federal agencies; as well as health care professionals and researchers who seek information on lead poisoning prevention in Illinois.

Act and Code

The Illinois Lead Poisoning Prevention Act [410 ILCS 45], authorizes IDPH’s Office of Health Protection, Division of Environmental Health, Lead Program, to promulgate, administer, and enforce the Illinois Lead Poisoning Prevention Code (77 IL. Admin Code 845). Public Act 100-0723 of 2019, now requires public health intervention at confirmed blood lead levels ≥5 μg/dL.

Delegate Agencies

In 2019, IDPH had grant agreements with 101 local health departments or delegate agencies to provide case management care for lead-exposed children in 97 of 102 counties. Additionally, 31 of the delegate agencies also had grant agreements to provide environmental investigation services. IDPH provided services to five counties with no delegate agency.


There is no safe level of lead in the body. Lead exposure is one of the most prevalent yet preventable environmental health hazards. Lead is a neurotoxin that can affect the brain and nervous system. Childhood lead exposure contributes to learning disabilities, developmental delays, behavioral problems, and other negative health effects.

Lead Burden

Childhood lead exposure in Illinois remains one of the highest in the nation. In 2019, more than 7,000 Illinois children tested had elevated blood lead levels (EBLL) ≥5 μg/dL and more than 4,000 were confirmed by a venous test.

Children at Highest Risk

Those with persistent hand-to-mouth behaviors, especially those 3 years of age and younger; access to lead-containing products; and those residing in or frequently visiting pre-1978 housing. Fifty-eight percent of pre-1978 housing units have lead-based paint and 68% of those have significant lead-based paint hazards.


The mission of the Program is to eliminate the incidence of childhood and prenatal lead exposure.


The vision of the Program is to provide a lead-safe environment for all children and pregnant persons.


Prevent childhood and prenatal lead exposure through community and health care provider education and public awareness campaigns

Identify children and pregnant persons exposed to lead, provide prompt interventions to reduce EBLLs, and improve health and developmental outcomes


The Program is currently supported by the Lead Poisoning Screening, Prevention, and Abatement Fund; Illinois State General Revenue Funds; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA); and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Key Facts on Illinois Childhood Lead Poisoning Surveillance

According to the CDC Wonder national data system, there were an estimated 1 million children 6 years of age and younger in Illinois and approximately 237,000 were tested for blood lead in 2019. Amongst the 24% children tested:

  • Approximately 55% had received a blood lead test at least once in their lifetime.
  • About 55% had at least one venous blood lead test.
  • BLLs in children averaged 2.1 μg/dL.
  • Of the 7,000 (3%) children tested in 2019 with BLLs ≥5 μg/dL for public health intervention:
    • 59% had a confirmatory venous test and 41% were capillary tests.
    • 60% were 2 years of age or younger.
    • 69% benefited from programs administered by Medicaid.
    • 44% were Black or African American, 32% White, 10% Hispanics, 5% Asians, and 9% other.
  • Of almost 264,000 total tests analyzed, 4.2% had BLLs ≥5 μg/dL (test positivity).
  • Approximately 60% of the 4.9 million occupied housing units in Illinois were built prior to the lead-paint ban of 1978.

CDC is dedicated to eliminating childhood lead poisoning as a public health problem through strengthening blood lead testing, reporting, and surveillance, linking exposed children to recommended services, and targeted population-based interventions.