window sill with peeling paintLead is often found in old paint, varnish, and household dust and dirt, in homes or apartments built before 1978. Lead poisoning is a concern for children between 6 months and 6 years of age. They can be poisoned by lead when they eat or inhale dust, paint chips, or other materials containing lead.

Read more about lead poisoning.

When to Test for Lead

If your home or apartment was built before 1978, you should test for lead if you have paint that is peeling or chipping, or have windows, floors and doors that may have paint dust. You should also test for lead on surfaces with old paint or varnish before painting or remodeling.  

Sample Collection

You can collect a sample from any surface, including furniture.

  1. Collect one or more paint or varnish chips so the total is equal to the size of a quarter. Include all layers of paint or varnish without any of the wood, plaster etc.
  2. Place each quarter-sized sample in a clean plastic bag and seal it.  Do not mix chips from different surfaces or locations. Each should be treated as a different sample.
  3. Label each bag with the following information: Your name, address and phone number and description of the sample using surface type and location (examples: garage - exterior siding, bedroom - interior window sill) 
  4. Complete a Chain-of-Custody form for Lead in Paint
  5. Mail or deliver samples, Chain-of-Custody form, and payment to the Public Health Laboratory at the address below.

Results are usually available in ten business days after the sample is received by our lab. Rush orders (results in 5 business days) might be available – call about availability and fee before mailing or dropping off samples. 

Instructions on collecting and submitting paint and varnish samples (pg 1) and Chain-of-Custody Lead Testing Form (pg 2)


  • Cost is $20.00 per sample.
  • Payment: cash, or check made out to City Treasurer.

Mail sample and payment to:
ATTN: Laboratory
Public Health Madison and Dane County
210 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd RM 507
Madison WI 53703

(We cannot be responsible for cash payment sent through the mail.)

Sample Drop Off:
Monday - Friday 8:00AM to 2:00PM
Public Health Office
Room 507, City County Building
210 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
Madison, WI 53703