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Indiana State Department of Health

Environmental Public Health Home > Lead & Healthy Homes Program > Lead Topics Lead Topics

Lead and Pregnancy

Lead can pass from a mother to her unborn baby. Too much lead in the body can lead to miscarriage, premature birth, or low birth weight. It can also harm the baby's nervous system and kidneys, and cause learning and behavior problems later in life.

If you are pregnant. . .

  • Eat foods with calcium, iron, and Vitamin C. Calcium can be found in foods like milk, yogurt, cheese, and green leafy vegetables like spinach. Iron can be found in lean red meat, beans, cereal, and spinach, and Vitamin C can be found in some fruits and vegetables as well as juices.
  • Talk to your doctor about any medicines or vitamins you are taking, since some home remedies and supplements have lead in them. Make sure you tell your doctor if you are having any cravings for things that aren't food, like clay or dirt.
  • Most lead comes from dust in older homes. Home repairs like sanding or scraping paint can create lead dust. Pregnant women should not be in the house while a room with lead paint is being cleaned, painted, or remodeled.
  • More information on lead and pregnancy can be found here.

Lead and Refugees

Lead poisoning is a significant problem for refugee children resettled in the United States. Research shows that many refugee children with elevated blood lead levels are poisoned after they are resettled in the U.S. Some reasons may be that refugees tend to live in older homes with lead hazards, and they may not be aware of the dangers of lead. In addition, refugees often have a compromised nutritional status, which can lead to a greater risk of lead poisoning. Refugees may also continue to use traditional medicines and cultural practices from their country of origin which contain lead.

A toolkit for working with refugees, as well as information on testing guidelines for refugee children is available here.

International Adoption

The risk of exposure to lead is much higher in many countries from which children are adopted than it is in the United States. Sources of lead differ from country to country, but can include ceramic or metal dishes for cooking or eating, contamination from nearby mining and smelting, cottage industries, and traditional medicines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that children who were adopted from another country be screened for lead poisoning upon their arrival in the United States, as well as at 12 and 24 months of age. More information on protecting internationally adopted children is available here

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