September 19, 2018
2 min read

Home repairs reduce lead exposure among pregnant women

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Joseph Braun
Joseph Braun

A randomized clinical trial showed that changes to living spaces, including fixing and repainting walls that were covered in lead paint, as well as installing water filters and dusting, significantly reduced the amount of lead found within the homes of pregnant women. However, the interventions did not significantly improve neurobehavioral outcomes in their children.

“This study shows that it is possible to reduce residential lead exposures and prevent lead exposures, particularly among children at higher risk of lead poisoning,” Joseph M. Braun, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology at Brown University’s School of Public Health, told Infectious Diseases in Children. “Our intervention was unique in that we reduced residential lead exposures before children were born and living in homes that had lead hazards in an attempt to prevent exposures.”

Braun and colleagues examined whether changing residential exposure levels could affect blood lead concentrations and improve the neurobehavioral outcomes of children born to women residing in homes located in Cincinnati, Ohio. The trial included 355 pregnant women, and about half (49%) received a combination of interventions, including:

  • covering bare lead-contaminated soil with groundcover;
  • installing tap-water filters if lead contamination was higher than 2 µg/L;
  • fixing and repainting peeling and deteriorating lead paint;
  • installing smooth floors and windows, making them easier to clean; and
  • extensively cleaning dust from the home and preventing further accumulation of dust.

According to the researchers, the cleaning interventions reduced lead dust found on floors by 24% (95% CI, –43% to 1%), in windowsills by 40% (95% CI, –60% to –11%) and in window troughs by 47% (95% CI, –68% to –10%).

As a whole, home repairs reduced childhood blood lead concentrations by 6% (95% CI, –17% to 6%), but this finding was not statistically significant, the researchers said. Additionally, the neurodevelopmental outcomes of these children were not statistically different compared with children who were born to mothers in a control group. However, the researchers did observe that children born in the intervention group had lower levels of anxiety compared with children in the control group ( = –1.6; 95% CI, –3.2 to –0.1)

“These results suggest that physicians and public health agencies should consider the levels of residential exposure among [pregnant women] in their population since this intervention, and others, might have larger effects among those who have higher exposure,” Braun said. – by Katherine Bortz

Disclosures: Braun reports financial compensation for conducting a reanalysis of a child lead exposure study for the plaintiffs in a public nuisance childhood lead poisoning case. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.