Lead Paint Is it in Your Home?

What’s so bad about Lead Paint?

Lead paint is more correctly called “lead-based paint”. Lead is a powerful neurotoxin that interferes with the development and functioning of almost all body organs, particularly the kidneys, red blood cells, and central nervous system. In young children, lead retards the development of the central nervous system and brain. High levels of lead exposure can result in coma, convulsions, and death. At low levels, lead can cause reduced IQ, reading and learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder and behavioral problems. As a result, childhood lead poisoning is associated with lower educational achievement; higher rates of high school drop-out and increased behavioral problems. In the long run, children who are lead poisoned may be less likely to become positive contributors to our communities and our economy. Childhood lead poisoning is the number one environmental health risk for children today. In the United States, more than three million children age six and younger — that’s one out of six — already have toxic levels of lead in their bodies. Lead interferes with the development and functioning of almost all body organs, and retards the development of the central nervous system and brain.

Childhood lead poisoning is the number one environmental health risk for children today.

Lead is sometimes called, “brain poison.” 80% of childhood lead poisoning occurs at home. Many homeowners are not aware of the hazards associated with lead-based paint and unknowingly poison their own children by not following safe work practices during renovation or by not attending to deteriorating and/or chipping paint.

How does someone get Lead Poisoning?

While it is true that many kids get poisoned by eating lead paint chips — they taste sweet — most children are poisoned by invisible lead dust created when lead paint deteriorates from age, is exposed to the elements, is damaged by water, is exposed by friction (such as the opening and closing of a door or window), or during home renovation. If proper precautions are not taken, remodeling or renovating an older home (pre-1978) can generate a very large amount of dust. Even small jobs done during routine maintenance — like painting — can generate lead dust.

Lead Paint Facts: What you should know about Lead Poisoning

  • Lead Paint was banned in U.S. residential paint in 1978. (It was banned in France and many other countries prior to 1920.)
  • Three-quarters of the nation’s housing contains lead paint.
  • Lead poisoning is a serious disease.
  • Children under six are most at risk.
  • Children from every region, race, and socioeconomic level are at risk
  • Lead poisoning causes learning and developmental disabilities.
  • There are usually no symptoms.
  • Even children who appear healthy can have dangerous levels of lead in their blood.
  • Lead poisoning is preventable.
  • Most lead poisoning happens at home.
  • The primary cause is tiny particles of lead dust from deteriorated lead paint or from painted surfaces disturbed during remodeling, repair or renovation.
  • Lead dust is invisible, so tiny in fact that it passes through most masks & filters.
  • Lead poisoning affects adults as well as kids.
  • Lead paint isn’t always dangerous. If it’s under layers of newer, non-lead paint, you may not have a problem. Only when lead paint is disturbed – by rubbing, bumping, water damage, or during renovation – does it release tiny particles of lead dust that can harm you.
  • The solution to a lead paint hazard problem isn’t always expensive. There are ways to “manage” lead paint hazards. (In fact, removing lead, if it’s done improperly, can create more problems than you had in the first place.)
  • The older the building, the more likely that it has lead paint
    • 90% of pre-1940 buildings have lead.
    • 80% of pre-1960 and,
    • 62% of pre-1978 buildings have lead.
  • If liability is your primary concern, select an evaluation method that follows the 1995 HUD Guidelines, the de facto standard. If you are subsequently involved in litigation, it’s likely that your actions — what you did and how you did it — will be measured against these guidelines.
  • Always have lead evaluations performed by certified professionals. A lead inspection is designed to answer two questions: “Is there lead-based paint (LBP) present in the housing unit?” and “Where is the lead-based paint?” Surveying a housing unit for lead-based paint is typically performed using an X-Ray Fluorescence analyzer, called an XRF. Paint or other coatings with lead levels above an established threshold are considered lead-based. A Final LBP Inspection Report identifies all surfaces with lead-based paint but does not provide the consumer with information about the condition of the paint, the presence of lead contaminated dust or soil, or options for controlling any hazards found. A lead paint inspection is most appropriate for property owners who need to know where lead-based paint is located, such as in the following situations:
  • People considering renovation, remodeling or demolition work that would disturb painted surfaces and may generate lead dust hazards unless proper precautions are followed.
  • Home sellers desiring specific information about lead for marketing purposes.
  • Home buyers or renters who want to know how much lead paint is present and its location (or who feel strongly that they want a home that contains no lead-based paint).
  • Rental property owners seeking exemption from the federal lead disclosure requirements by demonstrating that a specific property does not contain lead-based paint.
  • Rental property owners who might need or desire documentation about lead-based paint for insurance, financing, or other reasons.

Those facing a state or local requirement to abate all lead-based paint

Most houses and apartments built before 1978 contain lead-based paint. Lead-based paint produced before 1960 contains higher concentrations of lead than paint manufactured in later years. In fact, the older the home, the more likely it is to have lead-based paint hazards. HUD and EPA estimate that at least 19 million homes in the U.S. have lead-based paint hazards, of which at least 4 million were occupied by families with young children under age 6 (HUD 1990; EPA 1995). Lead-based paint can be on walls, ceilings, woodwork, windows, and sometimes floors. When lead-based paint on these surfaces is broken, sanded, or scraped, it breaks into tiny, usually invisible, pieces that you or your child may swallow or inhale. Even small repair and renovation jobs, including repainting projects, can create enough lead dust and chips to harm you. If proper precautions are not taken, renovation, remodeling and maintenance, including repainting, can generate large amounts of lead-contaminated dust and soil. Before you repair or renovate, contact a certified lead inspector or call your county health department or check your yellow pages under lead-paint detection services. If lead-based paint is found in your home, have the repair or renovation done by a contractor who has been trained in “lead-safe work practices.”

If You Suspect That You Have Lead Paint

AVOID the following activities which can produce invisible lead dust and create hazardous conditions:

  • Dry scraping, sanding, or using a heat gun on painted surfaces before repainting.
  • Making holes in walls to get at pipes, or tearing out walls.
  • Allowing furniture or other objects to bump against painted surfaces, or unnecessarily opening and closing windows and doors with painted frames and sills.

If You are Doing the Repair or Renovation

If you will do repairs or renovations yourself in areas where you know or suspect lead-based paint is present, you SHOULD:

  • Move children and pregnant women to another apartment or house until work is completed and the area is properly cleaned.
  • Seal off the work area with 6 mil plastic and duct tape. Also, cover AC/heating ducts, furniture, carpets, rugs, and floors. Dispose of the plastic carefully.
  • To keep dust down, lightly mist painted surfaces with water before you work on them.
  • Clean up thoroughly.
    • Always clean up dust and chips with wet mops or rags soaked in a solution of trisodium phosphate (TSP) or phosphate-containing powdered dishwasher detergent and warm water. (Powdered dishwasher detergents are recommended because most have high phosphate contents. Most multipurpose household cleaners are not effective in cleaning up lead dust.)
    • To avoid skin irritation when cleaning with TSP or high-phosphate dishwasher detergent, wear rubber gloves. Use two buckets-one for wash water and one for rinse water.
  • To prevent recontamination of cleaned surfaces, wash mops and rags thoroughly after each use. If this is not possible, or if you have already used the mops and rags several times, place them in plastic bags and dispose of them carefully.
  • Avoid dry sweeping or vacuuming the work area with an ordinary vacuum. Sweeping spreads lead dust around. Vacuuming also spreads lead dust around, since tiny lead particles can pass through and out of ordinary vacuum cleaners. If renovations have already occurred or are occurring, you should do the following:
  • Keep children away from paint dust and chips.
  • Clean up all dust and chips with wet mops and rags, as described above. Pay special attention to floors and to window sills and wells.
  • Close your windows if work is going on outside your home that may be scattering lead dust (for example, a neighbor scraping exterior paint). Using wet mops and rags, clean up any dust that has gotten into your home.

If you have lead paint in your home:

  • Have the painted item replaced. You can replace a door or other easily removed item if you can do it without creating lead dust. Items that are difficult to remove should be replaced by professionals who will control and contain lead dust.
  • Cover the lead-based paint. You can spray the surface with a sealant or cover it with gypsum wallboard. However, painting over lead-based paint with non-lead paint is not a long-term solution. Even though the lead-based paint may be covered by non-lead paint, the lead-based paint may continue to loosen from the surface below and create lead dust. The new paint may also partially mix with the lead-based paint, and lead dust will be released when the new paint begins to deteriorate.
  • Have the lead-based paint removed. Have professionals trained in removing lead-based paint do this work. Each of the paint-removal methods (sandpaper, scrapers, chemicals, sandblasters, and torches or heat guns) can produce lead fumes or dust. Fumes or dust can become airborne and be inhaled or ingested. Wet methods help reduce the amount of lead dust. Removing moldings, trim, window sills, and other painted surfaces for professional paint stripping outside the home may also create dust. Be sure the professionals contain the lead dust. Wet-wipe all surfaces to remove any dust or paint chips. Wet-clean the area before re-entry. You can remove a small amount of lead-based paint if you can avoid creating any dust. Make sure the surface is less than about one square foot (such as a window sill). Any job larger than about one square foot should be done by professionals. Make sure you can use a wet method (such as a liquid paint stripper).
  • Reduce lead dust exposure. You can periodically wet mop and wipe surfaces and floors with a high phosphorous (at least 5%) cleaning solution. Wear waterproof gloves to prevent skin irritation. Avoid activities that will disturb or damage lead based paint and create dust. This is a preventive measure and is not an alternative to replacement or removal.

If there’s lead in my home, do I have to remove it?

Usually, no. In most states there are no laws that require you to remove lead paint. (Check with state and local authorities to see if there are more stringent laws where you live.) But, you do have to contend with it. That is “manage it” using approved, lead safe work practices when performing maintenance or repairs.Contact your state and local health departments lead poisoning prevention programs and housing authorities for information about testing labs and contractors who can safely remove lead-based paint.

Testing for Lead in Paint

To thoroughly analyze the paint in your home, each different painted surface should be tested. Different paints may have been used on walls, window frames, doors, and so on. Paints may also differ from room to room. Each of your home’s painted surfaces, both inside and outside, should be tested separately. Professional testing companies use two basic methods to measure lead in paint:

  • X-ray fluorescence (XRF) uses portable detectors that X-ray a painted surface to measure the amount of lead in all the layers of paint. This type of testing is done in the home and disturbs little, if any, paint.
  • Laboratory testing of paint samples involves removing samples of paint from each surface to be tested, usually from an area of about two square inches. Samples are sent to laboratories for analysis. This method leaves a bare spot on each surface tested.
  • Do-it-yourself test kits are commercially available. These kits do not tell you how much lead is present, however, and their reliability at detecting low levels of lead has not been determined. Professional testing by a certified lead paint inspector is recommended.

What services does CJR Property Inspections offer for Lead Paint Inspections?

Our inspectors can take a paint sample and send it to a lab for testing. You will receive your results from one of our inspectors in approximately 6 business days.


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