Homeowner How To: Lead Paint Safety


Lead paint? Yep. It can be dangerous. Here is what you need to know about it before you renovate or paint in a home built before 1978.

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Beginning in April of 2010, a new federal law went into effect with regard to renovating or painting in homes that may contain lead based paint. The law basically says if you plan to disturb any area greater than six square feet of lead based paint in homes, child care facilities and schools built before 1978, you must have it tested for the presence of lead paint prior to starting the work. (Or of more than 20 square feet of exterior surfaces.)

If lead is found, the work must be done in a specific manner, by certified contractors who follow certain work practices to prevent lead contamination and reduce your risk of exposure.

Lead paint can be especially dangerous to young children, infants and pregnant women. If you have an issue with paint chipping and children are living in the home, you will want to get your home tested. Lead paint is said to cause a wide variety of health issues, especially in children.

Here are some facts about lead poisoning:

  • Lead can affect children’s brains and developing nervous systems, which can result in behavioral problems, learning disabilities and cause a reduced IQ.
  • Lead is hazardous to adults and can cause high blood pressure and hypertension. Pregnant women who are exposed to lead can transfer lead to their fetus.
  • Dust contaminated with lead is the most common source of exposure. Lead dust is often invisible. People can get lead in their bodies from soil or paint chips as well.
  • Lead based paint was used in more than 38 million residential homes before it was banned back in 1978.

Common renovation activities like sanding, demolition and cutting can disturb the old paint and create hazardous dust and chips. So if you are planning to disturb the paint in, remove walls or renovate your home and it is older than 1978, be prepared to have it tested by a certified inspector before the job can properly begin. Make sure the testing firm is certified and get a printed copy of the findings. This will be required by a contractor to begin the work.

To help find a certified risk assessor or inspector call the National Lead Information Center at 1-800- 424-LEAD (5323) or for more information on dealing with lead, for do-it-yourself-ers and what to expect when lead is found and must be removed, visit  www.epa.gov/lead.

If you currently live in a home built before 1978 you can protect your family by regularly cleaning the floors, surfaces and window sills. Be sure to wash your childrens hands, bottles, pacifiers and toys often to remove any possible lead dust that may be there. Stay away from visibly cracked paint and clean up any paint chips that may be lying around
(inside your home, basement and outdoors). Renovate safely!