Sources of potential lead exposure among pregnant women in New Mexico. Academic Article uri icon


  • The objectives of this study were to ascertain the prevalence and potential sources of lead exposure among pregnant women residing in a socially-disadvantaged immigrant community in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Pregnant women (n = 140) receiving prenatal care through a community clinic participated in a structured interview and screening to measure their blood lead levels (BLLs). Potential sources of lead exposure were ascertained by the CDC and New Mexico Department of Health questionnaires. Self-reported risk factors were examined as predictors of BLLs using multiple linear regression and partial least squares discriminant analysis. Most patients were Spanish-speaking (88.6%), Latina (95%), foreign-born (87.1%), lacked health insurance (86.4%), and had a high school education or lower (84.3%). While risk factors were prevalent in this population, only three women (2.1%) had BLLs ≥3 μg/dL. Results of multivariate analyses demonstrated that pica symptoms in pregnancy, history of elevated BLLs before pregnancy, use of non-commercial pottery, and living in older houses were important predictors of elevated BLLs. Although the prevalence of other risk factors relevant to immigrant communities (i.e., use of traditional/folk remedies and cosmetics, seasonings and food products from Mexico) was high, they were not predictive of elevated BLLs. Clinics providing prenatal care to immigrant Hispanic communities should carefully assess patients' pica symptoms, use of non-commercial pottery, and a history of elevated BLLs. Moreover, additional efforts need to focus on the development of screening questionnaires which better reflect exposures of concern in this population.

publication date

  • January 2013