Can Lead Affect My Unborn Baby?

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I’m worried because we recently moved into an older home that may have some lead paint and I just found out that I’m pregnant. Should I be concerned about exposing my baby to lead?
- Susan

If your home was built before 1978, it could have lead-based paint. A pregnant woman's exposure to high lead levels can be hazardous to the baby, because lead in a mother's blood can easily cross the placenta to the fetus.

Lead poisoning can affect almost every system in the body. Even low levels of lead in a child's blood can cause subtle problems with behavior and learning. Lead in paint can cause problems when it is chipping, peeling, or is removed. Even opening a window that previously had lead paint on it can release lead dust that can be inhaled or settle on hands and food. Some homes (old and new) may also have lead pipes or copper piping with lead solder that can allow lead to enter the tap water.

If you have an older home or are concerned about lead exposure, get a professional to test your water, the dust in your home, the soil outside, and the paint around your home for lead.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: October 2012

Related Resources

OrganizationAmerican College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) This site offers information on numerous health issues. The women's health section includes readings on pregnancy, labor, delivery, postpartum care, breast health, menopause, contraception, and more.
OrganizationEnvironmental Protection Agency (EPA) The EPA is the government agency that works to protect human health and safeguard the natural environment.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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