Don't think lead exposure is something you only need to worry about after your baby is born? Exposure to even small amounts of lead during pregnancy may take a toll by raising blood pressure levels among moms-to-be, according to a study published online February 3, 2011 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Conducted by a research team from George Washington University, 285 pregnant women were checked for lead levels using an umbilical cord blood sample. Approximately 25 percent of women had a lead level higher than 1 microgram/deciliter (mcg/dL). In this group, researchers noted that women's blood pressure readings averaged seven points higher in systolic pressure and four points higher in diastolic pressure, compared to women without detectable levels of lead.
What's concerning to researchers, however, is that a lead level of 1mcg/dL is well below the current CDC cut off of 5 mcg/dL. (The CDC advises to take action to reduce exposures when pregnant women or children have a blood lead level of 5 mcg/dL or higher.)
"We didn't expect to see effects at such low levels of lead exposure, but in fact we found a strong effect. If confirmed, this would indicate that pregnant women may be as sensitive to lead toxicity as young children," says study author Dr. Lynn Goldman.
Still, concerned about your lead exposure? Because paint used in older homes may contain lead, if you live in a house built before the 1980s, contact your state and local health departments' lead poisoning prevention programs for lead-based paint testing information (lead testing kits are also available at most large hardware stores). Other sources of household lead include dust and tracked in soil.