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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:

  • Unsafe home renovations such as sanding or burning pre 1970 paint; demolishing ceilings or wall cavities which release lead dust into the environment

  • hobbies which use lead (leadlighting, restoring old furniture, indoor shooting)

  • cleaning or entering areas containing lead dust (sheds, ceiling voids, verandahs, garages)

  • work clothes and shoes covered in lead dust

  • dry sweeping and dusting which disturbs lead laden dust

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,,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 ] 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:

  • dirt and dust from home renovations 

  • dust or fumes from paint removal

  • house, ceiling and vacuum cleaner dust

  • dust from work clothes

  • dirt and dust from landscaping or bare garden soil

How to minimise your lead risk......

Maintain good personal hygiene.

  • wash hands after playing outside and touching pets (pet hair can hold lead dust) and keep pets out of the house

  • wash toys, dummies and bottles frequently

  • People who smoke often have higher blood lead levels than non smokers. Cigarettes contain small amounts of lead and smoking in contaminated environments can be hazardous. Talk to your doctor about quitting.

Wet wipe

  • surfaces before preparing food or drinks

  • furniture and fittings after vacuuming

  • wet mop rather than sweep floors (so dust is not just stirred up and allowed to resettle)

  • windowsills, ledges and flat surfaces at least weekly and after vacuuming
    (liquid sugar soap in the water is effective in picking up lead particles)

Child care

  • keep fingernails short & use a nail brush

  • discourage sucking fingers or toys

  • build a sand pit and cover when not in use

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:

  • wash fruit and vegetables before eating

  • wash hands before preparing or eating food and after being in contact with dust or dirt

  • eat fruit, vegetables, dairy products and some red meat avoid high fat foods and use minimal fat when cooking

  • Empty stomachs absorb more lead – feed children regular healthy meals and snacks – up to six per day.

A diet high in iron, calcium and zinc will help protect you and your baby from lead

Home Care

  • Take particular care when renovating a pre 1970 home

  • seal cracks in walls and ceilings

  • repair peeling or chalking paint

  • check toys, cots and chewable surfaces for lead based paint

  • vacuum once a week and then wet wipe - avoid having children present

 Garden and Yard care

  • use a door mat to trap lead laden dust

  • leave dusty shoes outside

  • plant trees and tall shrubs

  • add “clean” soil to to vegetable patches

  • cover bare soil areas with plants , mulch, compost or ground cover

  • hose flyscreens, window sills, paths and paved areas regularly


This project was assisted by the NSW Govt as part of the Lead Education Program in 1998.
This fact sheet was updated 26th Feb 2008 under a DEWHA Federal Govt grant to GLASS.

For further free information contact: Global Lead Advice & Support Service, see or phone (02) 9716 0132 or 1800 626 086.

Contents | Previous Item | Next Item

PDF of this file

The LEAD Group Inc. Fact Sheet Index

NSW Lead Reference Centre and NSW Government Publications On this site PDF

  1. About the Global Lead Advice and Support Service (GLASS)

  2. Main Sources of Lead

  3. How Would You Know If You or Your Child Was lead poisoned?

  4. Lead aware housekeeping

  5. Ceiling dust & lead poisoning

  6. Is your yard lead safe?

  7. Health Impacts of lead poisoning

  8. Rotary Questionnaire

  9. Lead poisoned Pets and Your Family

  10. Childhood Lead Poisoning Risk Factor Questionnaire

  11. Is Your Child Safe From Lead? - What Can You Do About Lead?

  12. Lead in Drinking Water in Australia

  13. Have We Really Resolved The Lead Issue?

  14. The Importance of the Availability of "Spot Tests" for Lead in Paint

  15. Pregnant or Planning a Pregnancy

  16. Breastfeeding and Lead

  17. Lead in breast milk

  18. Beware The Lead In Lead Lighting

  19. Renting and Lead

  20. What to do if you have too much lead in your tank water PDF

  21. Lead Contamination in Stormwater PDF

  22. Contamination At Shooting Ranges PDF

  23. Banned: Leaded Wick Candles

  24. Lead, Ageing and Death

  25. Metal miniatures: How to minimise the risks of lead poisoning and contamination

  26. 7 Point Plan for the MANAGEMENT OF LEAD by Australian parents and carers

  27. Countries where Leaded Petrol is Possibly Still Sold for Road Use, As at 17th June 2011

  28. Lead Poisoning And The Brain - Cognitive Deficits And Mental Illness

  29. Facts and Firsts of Lead

  30. Lead mining royalties by state and territory

  31. Lead Mining Stewardship - Grey Lead and the Role of The LEAD Group

  32. Preventative Strategies of The LEAD Group

  33. What do Doctors need to do about Lead?

  34. A Naturopath's Experience Of Lead & People With Diagnosed Mental Illness

  35. Case File: Helping Manage Australian Lead in Petrol - How GLASS Works

  36. Glass Web & Service-Users, Experts & Volunteers, by Country; Countries with Leaded Petrol for Road Use & Worst Pollution

  37. Lead in ceiling dust

  38. Lead paint & ceiling dust management - how to do it lead-safely

  39. Esperance parliamentary inquiry follow-up factsheet: Where to from Here??

  40. Broken Hill lead miners factsheet 1893 with Note 20081015

  41. Helping a Doctor Help 35,000 Lead-Poisoned People Around the Lead Smelter at La Oroya in Peru
    Ayuda a un doctor que ayuda 35,000 personas envenenadas por plomo alrededor de la fundidora de plomo en la Oroya-Peru

  42. Fact sheet for Australian toy importers and traders

  43. Iron Nutrition & Lead Toxicity PDF
    Informe de Acciones – Hierro y Plomo en la Nutrición PDF
    情况说明书铁的营养和铅的毒性 PDF

  44. Sanitarium-Are You getting Enough Iron PDF

  45. Do-It-Yourself-Lead-Safe-Test-Kits-flyer

  46. Blood lead testing: who to test, when, and how to respond to the result

  47. Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 µg/dL and below 10 µg/dL to both adults and children PDF

  48. Lead Exposure & Alzheimer’s Disease: Is There A Link?

  49. In CHINA - Blood lead testing: who to test, when, and how to respond to the result

  50. Why you should have your ceiling dust removed before you take advantage of the Australian government's Energy Efficient Homes Package: Insulation Program

  51. Alperstein et al Lead Alert - A Guide For Health Professionals 1994 PDF

  52. Ceiling Dust WorkCover Guide Lee Schreiber Final Nov 1999 PDF

  53. What can I do about climate change AND lead?

  54. The Need for Expert Clinical Assessments in Diagnosis Of Heavy Metal Poisoning

  55. Why you should have your ceiling dust removed before you have insulation installed

  56. Thirty Thought-Starters on Ceiling Void Dust in Homes

  57. Pectin: Panacea for both lead poisoning and lead contamination

  58. Nutrients that reduce lead poisoning June 2010 PDF

  59. Lead poisoning and menopause PDF

  60. Fact sheet For Schoolkids From Professor Knowlead About Lead PDF

  61. Prevention of Exposure to Lead at Work in Indonesia

  62. Mencegah kontak dengan timbal di tempat kerja di Indonesia

  63. How to Protect Your Family from Lead in Indonesia

  64. Bagaimana melindungi keluargamu dari timbal di Indonesia

  65. Cigarette Smoking & Lead Toxicity
     صحيفة معلومات: التدخين والتسمم بالرصاص

  66. Medical Evaluation Questionnaire For Occupational Lead Exposure

  67. Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 µg/dL and below 10 µg/dL to children

  68. Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 µg/dL and below 10 µg/dL to adults

  69. Biosolids used as fertilizer in China and other countries

  70. What are the lead poisoning risks of a lead pellet, bullet or shot lodged in the body?

  71. Alcohol’s link to higher lead and iron levels

  72. USA Case Definition of Adult (including Occupational) & Child Elevated Blood Lead Levels (EBLL)

  73. Low Level Lead Exposure Harms Children - A Renewed Call for Primary Prevention

  74. Occupational Health & Safety Fact Sheet Dangers of lead for roofers

  75. Let’s Make Leaded Petrol History - Let’s Make Leaded Gasoline History

  76. Lead, Your Health & the Environment. Available in Arabic, Chinese, English, Korean, Macedonian, Spanish, Turkish and Vietnamese  PDF

  77. Lead Safe Housekeeping PDF

  78. Old Lead Paint PDF

  79. Working safely with lead PDF

  80. A Renovator's Guide To The Dangers Of Lead (Brochure 30 pages) PDF

  81. A Guide For Health Care Professionals (Brochure 34 pages) PDF

  82. A Guide To Keeping Your Family Safe From Lead (Brochure 20 pages) PDF

  83. Lead Hazard Management In Children's Services (Brochure 15 pages) PDF

  84. A Guide To Dealing With Soil That Might Be Lead-Contaminated

  85. Exposure Assessment: Lead Neurotoxicity - Is the Center for Disease Control's goal to reduce lead below 10 µg/dl blood in all children younger than 72 months by 2010, good enough?

About Us | bell system lead poisoning | Contact Us | Council LEAD Project | egroups | Library - Fact Sheets | Home Page | Media Releases
| Q & A | Referral lists | Reports | Site Map | Slide Shows - Films | Subscription | Useful Links |  Search this Site

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 Last Updated 28 May 2014
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PO Box 161 Summer Hill NSW 2130 Australia
Phone: +61 2 9716 0014