Lead can be harmful to everyone. However, it is especially harmful to young children and pregnant women. Contact with lead during pregnancy can put pregnant women at risk for:
- preterm birth
- low birthweight
- developmental delays
Most women in the United States are usually not in close contact with high levels of lead, but nevertheless, elevated blood lead levels can be hearmful to the pregnancy.
The most common sources of lead are house paint (used before 1978) and water that comes from wells or through lead pipes.
- If you live in a home built before 1978, you could be in contact with lead. Older homes were once painted with house paint that had lead.
- If you live in an older home and the paint isn’t crumbling or peeling, there’s little risk to your health. However, crumbling paint can lead to dust with lead substances, which can be harmful to your health.
- If you need to remove lead paint from your home, hire experts to do it. Stay out of your home until the job is done. You can learn more about lead paint and removing lead at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website.
Lead in water
If you have lead plumbing in your house or if you have well water, lead could get into your drinking water. Boiling your water does not get rid of lead.
If you think you have lead plumbing:
- Use only cold water for drinking and cooking. Water from the cold water pipe has less lead than water from the hot pipe.
- Run water for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking it, using it for cooking or making baby formula, especially if you haven’t used water for a few hours. If you use a water filter, get one that is certified by NSF International to remove lead.
- Contact your local health department or water supplier to find out how to get pipes tested for lead.
If you use well water, contact the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791 for information on testing your well water for lead and other substances that can harm your health.
Lead can be found in other parts of the home, including:
- Lead crystal glassware and some ceramic dishes. Don’t use these items. Ceramics you buy in a store are generally safer than those made by craftspeople because stores have to follow certain safety guidelines.
- Some arts and crafts supplies, including oil paints, ceramic glazes and stained glass materials. Use lead-free art supplies during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Vinyl miniblinds that come from other countries.
- Old painted toys and some new toys and jewelry. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website has information on recalls.
- Make-up, such as lipstick, that has surma or kohl. Check the label on your make-up for a list of ingredients.
- Canned food from other countries.
- Candy from Mexico called Chaca Chaca. Lead in this candy may come from ingredients like chili powder and tamarind, or from ink on plastic or paper wrappers.
If you work in a job that puts you in contact with large amounts of lead, your health could be at risk. These jobs include
- auto repair
- battery manufacturing
- certain kinds of construction
To help you stay safe:
- Change your clothes (including shoes) before coming home.
- Shower at work to avoid bringing lead into your home.
- Wash your work clothes at work or wash them at home separately from the rest of the laundry.