Give Your Baby the Best Start
Landrigan has seen it happen: A young couple with an older home renovates a
room to create a nursery. "Three, four months pregnant, they start sanding
down the old paint," he says. "Then mom shows up at the hospital with a
blood level of 50 or 60 -- sky-high -- which will go from her bloodstream and
poison the baby."
You have several options when it comes to testing for lead. A lead paint
test runs about $100 to $200. You need a properly certified inspector from the
EPA or your state health department to do the testing in your home.
A less expensive method is a paint chip test, which your local health
department can do; it costs from $20 to $50.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has a safety alert on its web site
about lead-based paint, testing, and guidelines on how to remedy the
If you can't remove the lead paint, you may want to consider finding a new
place to live, says Landrigan. There's little chance of lead poisoning with a
house built after 1978. Sellers and landlords are required to disclose known
lead hazards in houses and apartments built before 1978.
2. Cancel the pest control service. Heavy use of pesticides has the
potential to damage a baby's brain, says Landrigan. "These chemicals were
developed to destroy an insect's nervous system -- and they have the same
effect on a child. It just takes more of the stuff," he says.
What can you do? Instead of spraying pesticides, use the concept of
Integrated Pest Management (IPM). It suggests that chemical pesticides be used
as the last resort. Instead, reduce pests by simple measures:
- Meticulously cleaning food residues off plates and cookware.
- Sealing cracks that are a point of entry for roaches.
- Remove any sources of water.
- Get rid of any breeding places (like litter or standing water outside the
The EPA provides easy-to-understand guidelines on IPM at two sources -- a
brochure titled "Citizens Guide to Pest Control and Pest Safety" and a
fact sheet, "Do's and Don'ts of Pest Control." Or, you can check with
your local USDA extension office. The nonprofit organization Beyond Pesticides
has information about potential health impacts of pesticides and nontoxic
alternatives for almost any type of pest problem. They also have a list of
companies that employ safer methods if you need to call in experts.