Pregnant? Tips to Protect Your New Baby from Lead

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What you need to know:

Lead is a metal that can hurt pregnant women and their developing fetuses. It can damage the brain, kidneys, nerves and other parts of the body. It can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or difficulty getting pregnant. Lead can affect children’s behavior and make it harder for them to learn.

Lead can be stored in a woman’s body for years, and then passed from mother to baby. A product can contain lead, even if it is not listed as an ingredient.

Some pregnant women have the urge to eat nonfood items. This behavior is called pica.

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 you can do:

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, ask your doctor about a blood lead test.

If you have ever had a blood lead test result of 5 micrograms per deciliter or above, your new baby should get a lead test before leaving the hospital.

Resist the urge to eat nonfood items. Chalk, dirt, and pottery can contain lead.

Avoid products imported from the Middle East, Latin America, South Asia, and China that may contain lead:

  • Spices, including turmeric.
  • Many types of candy.
  • Skin creams, including Yisaoguang Yaogua, Hondan and Thanaka.
  • Cosmetics like Kohl (also known as surma or kajal).
  • Lead-glazed pottery. Do not use for food preparation or serving.
  • Costume jewelry, including gold or silver plated.
  • Herbal and Ayurvedic medicines.

Talk to your doctor about a lead test if you...

  • use imported spices and Ayurvedic medicines
  • recently moved to the United States from a foreign country
  • or someone you live with works with lead
  • renovated or remodeled a pre-1978 home; sanded and scraped paint
  • know your drinking water has lead
  • have urges to and eat dirt, chalk, pottery, plaster, or paint chips
  • have lead-risk hobbies, such as target shooting, casting fishing sinkers or bullets, stained glass making or pottery making
  • live near lead mines, smelters, battery recycling facilities or other facilities that use lead
  • have a history of lead levels of 5 micrograms per deciliter or above