Protecting your baby during pregnancy and after in Port Pirie

Babies are vulnerable to environmental lead exposure and can absorb more than 50% of the lead that enters their bodies.

  • the major risk of exposure for a new baby is dust (or dirt) contaminated with lead
  • lead dust is carried on hands, shoes and clothing of adults and builds up on baby clothes and bed linen left outside to dry
  • research in Port Pirie shows that washing left outside overnight can collect a large amount of lead-bearing dust
  • rainwater, if used, can be another major source of lead for babies.

As babies get older and spend more time on the floor and begin to put toys and objects into mouths, their blood lead levels can increase quite rapidly. Increasing the frequency of hand-washing then becomes very important.

Your baby’s own first blood lead test should be at the age of 6½ months.

During pregnancy

Pregnant women pass lead to their unborn babies through their bloodstream. A newborn baby’s blood lead level will be the same as his/her mother.

High lead levels can increase the risk of:

  • pre-term delivery
  • low birth weight
  • miscarriage and stillbirth.

Eating healthy foods helps reduce the amount of lead that your body absorbs

Having a healthy diet during pregnancy (PDF 45KB) can help reduce lead being passed onto their unborn baby. These foods include:

  • Calcium - dairy including low fat milk, cheese, custard
    and yoghurt.
  • Fibre - grainy breads and cereals, whole fruits and vegetables.
  • Iron - red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, lentils, dark green
    leafy vegetables.
  • Water - do not make drinks with rainwater.
  • Fruit and vegetables - choose a variety of types and colours of fresh fruit
    and vegetables that are in season. Thoroughly wash all fruit and vegetables prior to storage and eating.

Creating a safe environment for your new born baby

Some simple things you can do to help protect your new born baby:

  • seal all cracks and gaps in ceilings and walls
  • damp dust the tops of fans and light fittings
  • wash curtains and make sure windows seal well
  • shampoo carpets (contact the Environmental Health Centre to borrow a carpet shampooer)
  • place baby’s cot/bassinet away from windows and curtains.

Contact the Environmental Health Centre Family Support Team on how you can best set up the nursery for your expected child.

How to be 'lead smart' around babies

  • wash and dry your hands before preparing formula, feeding or handling a baby
  • do not make formula, drinks or sterilise bottles with rainwater
  • dropped bottles and dummies should be cleaned before returning to baby, but dropped food must be thrown away
  • keep a spare clean dummy in a sealed container
  • do not leave baby to sleep under an open window
  • before laying baby on the floor put down a clean rug or blanket
  • wash baby toys and play things regularly
  • store and wash baby clothes separately from other family clothing and dry indoors if possible
  • keep prams, bassinets, car seats and capsules as clean and dust free as possible
  • try not to push your baby into the wind when out walking with the pram
  • when doing a dirty or potentially lead hazardous job, do not cuddle a baby until you have showered, washed your hair and changed your clothes
  • encourage adults/children to wash their hands and change out of work clothes before nursing your baby.

House-keeping tips

By following these tips you will be protecting the
child in your care:-

  • do not vacuum while your baby is in the room.
  • wash floor rugs and blankets regularly.
  • keeping drying time on outside lines to a minimum.
  • reduce dust and dirt entering your home by leaving shoes outside.
  • keep pets outside because their fur traps dust.
  • if pets come indoors, wash them frequently and keep them away from your child.

During renovations

Renovation always creates dust, which can severely impact those living in the home at the time. Ensure pregnant and breastfeeding women along with young children are protected during renovation. The best method to do this is for them to stay somewhere else.

Further information

For further information on lead safe practices, contact the Environmental Health Centre or SA Health's Scientific Services on (08) 8226 7100. Additional information on reducing your exposure to lead is also available on the following pages: