Are You Pregnant? Learn how to Protect Yourself and Your Baby from Lead Poisoning

Why should I protect myself from lead?

Lead can cause high blood pressure in pregnant women. Lead can also cause your baby to be born too small or too early.

If you have lead in your body, it can be passed to your baby during pregnancy. Even a small amount of lead in your baby can cause problems with growth, behavior, and your child's ability to learn.

When you protect yourself from lead, you also protect your baby.

How can lead get into my body?

You can get lead into your body by swallowing it or breathing it in. For years, lead was used in paint, gasoline, plumbing, and many other items. Lead is still in some kinds of pottery. As things are used or get worn out, the lead in them can spread. Although lead paint was banned from home use in 1978, the dust from lead paint is still the number one source of childhood lead poisoning.

What is my lead risk?

If you answer "yes" to any of the following questions, ask your doctor about a blood lead test.

  • Do you live in a home or apartment built before 1978?
  • Have there been any recent home improvements or repairs where you live?
  • Were you born, or have you ever lived, in another country?
  • Do you use medicines, supplements, cosmetics, or spices from another country?
  • Do you, or someone with whom you live, have a job (such as construction) or hobby (such as stained glass or making bullets) that could bring you into contact with lead?
  • Do you use pottery that was made in another country, painted china, or leaded glass?
  • Have you ever eaten or chewed crushed pottery, soil, paint chips, clay, or other things that aren't food?

How can I protect myself and my baby from lead?

  1. Ask your doctor about a lead test. A blood test is the only way to know how much lead is in your body. Lead poisoning usually does not make you look or feel sick.
  2. Make sure you get your newborn tested for lead if you ever had an elevated blood level as a child or as an adult.
  3. Eat foods rich in calcium, iron, and vitamin C to help your body from absorbing lead. Foods with calcium include milk, cheese, and yogurt. Foods with iron include beans, meat, peas, spinach, eggs, and cereal. Foods with vitamin C include oranges, orange juice, grapefruits, tomatoes, and green peppers.
  4. Use lead-free dishes and pots. Lead is more likely to be in pottery from Latin America, the Middle East, India, and in painted china. Lead is also in pewter, leaded glass, and crystal.
  5. Avoid using traditional medicines, cosmetics, or spices from other countries. They are more likely to have lead in them than products made in the United States. Lead has been found in Ayurvedic medicines; cosmetics such as kohl and surma; and in liga, greta, azarcon, litargirio, and other preparations.
  6. Don't eat things that could have lead in them, such as clay, pottery, soil or paint chips. Talk with your doctor if you have ever done this.
  7. Be extra careful if you have jobs or hobbies that involve working with lead, such as building restoration, plumbing, stained glass work, or making lead fishing sinkers or bullets. Dust filters and dust masks will not keep out lead particles. You may need to use a NIOSH-certified respirator that is properly fitted and uses HEPA filters. Also, wash your hands before eating, and don't eat in the work or hobby area.
  8. If your house or apartment was built before 1978, when lead paint was still in use, stay away from any repair work being done until the area has been completely cleaned by the workers.
  9. Make sure that any people doing renovation, repair or repainting in your pre-1978 home or apartment use lead-safe practices.
  10. To get more information about lead-safe practices and how to protect yourself and your baby from lead, call your local health department, 1-800-LEAD (5323) or go to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website.

Where can I find out more?

  • Ask your health care provider or call your local health department.
  • Visit the New York State Department of Health website.
  • If you are concerned about lead at your work, call the New York State Bureau of Occupational Health and Injury Prevention at (518) 402-7900 or 1-800-458-1158.