Lead exposure and pregnancy


Lead exposure during pregnancy and breastfeeding can permanently harm a baby’s health. For over a decade, the COEC has educated North Carolina health professionals and residents about lead as an environmental health hazard for small children. In 2010, COEC staff expanded its focus to include pregnant women, convening a workgroup of state and local health agencies to develop a statewide implementation plan for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Guidelines for the Identification and Management of Lead Exposure in Pregnant and Lactating Women.

The Guidelines serve as a reference for blood lead testing, assessment and treatment of pregnant women, as well as follow-up for infants and children who have been exposed to lead. The COEC partnered with the NC Division of Public Health Women’s Health Branch (WHB) to develop an educational brochure and assessment tool for nurses, other healthcare practitioners and health educators on lead and pregnancy. This collaboration led to WHB requiring all health departments to conduct assessments and patient education with new mothers, effective July 1, 2012. The COEC has also coordinated trainings with WHB for over 250 clinical and environmental health staff, providing tools and resources for implementing the Guidelines.

Educational materials

Funded by NIEHS Grant # P30 ES010126