Pregnant or planning a pregnancy?
Are you at risk from lead?
When you are planning a pregnancy, are pregnant or breastfeeding, your health and that of your baby will be very much on your mind. To minimise the risk to you and your unborn child from lead, take a moment to educate yourself about making your environment more “lead safe.”
Why is lead a concern?
Lead is poisonous. During pregnancy, lead in the mother’s blood can pass freely to her unborn child. High blood lead levels can affect the unborn child’s developing brain and cause developmental problems. If a mother has been exposed to lead in the past it may have been stored in her bones and can be released, along with calcium, during pregnancy. In men, even low blood lead levels can affect libido and fertility. Keep your lead levels low to give your unborn child the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.
Where is the lead?
Large amounts of lead can be found around the home in paint, dust, soil, building products, wall and ceiling cavities and carpets.
You are most likely to be exposed to lead by:
Who should have a blood lead test?
The blood lead level of an unborn child will be similar to the mother’s. To ensure your unborn child’s blood lead level is low, it is important to keep your blood lead level as low as possible.
One of Australia's leading lead researchers, Dr Peter Baghurst, believes that the new acceptable level should be 2 micrograms per decilitre (2 µg/dL), equivalent to 0.1 micromoles per litre (0.1 µmol/L).
[Ref: "Water cost link to high level in kids" 15th March 2007, www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21384704-23289,00.html]
A simple blood test is the best way of finding out the level of lead present in your blood.
Testing for lead can be done as part of standard ante-natal blood tests. If you are having a blood test anyway, ask your doctor or obstetrician about lead and blood tests. Umbilical cord blood can be painlessly tested for lead at birth – ask your physician to arrange it.
Pre-pregnancy blood lead tests will help identify any lead-related fertility problems a couple may be experiencing. Blood lead levels below the US guideline [Ref: "Medical Management Guidelines for Lead-Exposed Adults, by Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics" at www.aoec.org/documents/positions/MMG_FINAL.PDF ] of 5 µg/dL, equivalent to 0.24 µmol/L, are recommended for healthy eggs and sperm. Male partners should be below this level for at least three months before conception as sperm take this long to develop.
Undertaking a home renovation is a major cause of lead poisoning.
What is home assessment?
Environmental home assessments identify how much lead is in your home. Soil, paint, ceiling dust, vacuum cleaner dust and water can be tested. See Do-It-Yourself-Lead-Safe-Test-Kits available for purchase from The LEAD Group. Problem areas can be identified around your home. The Global Lead Advice & Support Service (GLASS) can provide details of reputable firms to carry out professional home lead assessments. If a renovation has been undertaken unsafely a baby could be brought home to a contaminated environment. We give free advice on how to undertake a safe renovation, what to require of tradespeople and how to protect yourself.
How to protect your unborn child…...
Move out during renovations until clean up is finished. Avoid exposure to:
How to minimise your lead risk......
Maintain good personal hygiene.
Nutrition and Food Preparation
Our bodies substitute lead for calcium and we store that lead in our bones for our lifetime and beyond. Iron is also vitally important to minimise damage from lead. So you should:
A diet high in iron, calcium and zinc will help protect you and your baby from lead
Garden and Yard care
This project was assisted by the NSW Govt
as part of the
Lead Education Program in 1998.
For further free information contact: Global Lead Advice & Support Service, see www.lead.org.au or phone (02) 9716 0132 or 1800 626 086.
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Updated 18 November 2013