Monday, February 9, 2015

What every homeowner needs to know about lead based paint.

Buried somewhere in the stack of paperwork when you buy or sell your home in California, a single form stands out: the lead based paint disclosure. In fact, if you are buying, selling, or renting out a home that was built before 1978, federal law requires certain information about lead based paint is provided, buyers have a 10-day period to check further for lead, and landlords must disclose specific knowledge or warnings to tenants.

Most people sign it and move on, but it’s important to know why that disclosure is in there and why understanding the risks of lead based paint is so vital to keeping your family safe.

About Lead-Based Paint.
Before the 1980s, the presence of lead was widely used in many products, most notably as an ingredient in the gasoline we bought at the pumps and in common house paint. Once it was found to have extremely adverse health effects, the federal government banned the use of lead in those products. (Have you ever noticed we pump only unleaded gasoline these days?) 

While lead in paint used by consumers was banned in theory in 1978, it was still allowed as a trace element, with the maximum legal percentage decreasing over the years.  In 1965, most house paints contained 50% lead. In 1965 that was dropped to 1% and followed a schedule of reductions from there, including .25% in 1992 and 0.1% in 1997.

Where can you still find lead paint in the home?
Obviously, if your home was built before 1978, there is a good chance you have lead based paint in your home. Lead based paint was popular because of the nice sheen and durability it provided and most commonly used on:
Doors and door frames
Painted radiators and pipes
Windows, and window stills

The health hazards of lead based paint.
Lead is a highly toxic metal that can cause a variety of serious health issues if ingested or absorbed into the body. When absorbed into the body, lead can cause:
Brain damage
Kidney damage
Nerve damage
Blood disorders
High blood pressure
Digestive problems
Muscle and joint pain
Memory and concentration problems
Stomachaches, nausea, tiredness and irritability

If a woman is pregnant and takes in lead based paint traces, it can inhibit the development of the fetus or cause high blood pressure in the mother.

What about children?
Young children are especially susceptible to the dangers of lead based paint. In children, lead based paint poisoning may manifest as:

Nervous system and kidney damage
Learning disabilities and attention deficit
Speech, language, and behavior problems
Poor muscle coordination
Decreased muscle and bone growth
Hearing damage

How does lead paint get transmitted?
The biggest risk is if little children eat paint chips that contain lead, put their hands on lead-based paint dust or paint chips and then in their mouths, or play in lead-contaminated soil. Likewise, adults or children who breathe in lead dust are at risk.

Children under 6 years old are particularly susceptible because their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the toxicity of lead. Small children often put their hands everywhere, are crawling or playing on the ground.

Are you automatically in danger if your home was built before 1978?
The good news is that the presence of lead paint doesn’t mean you’ll get sick or have health issues at all. Lead only becomes transmissible when it’s disturbed and then ingested, so if the paint is in good condition and not absorbed, there’s no problem. Like we mentioned, that usually happens when paint is flaking or peeling and small children then pick it up, eat it, or get it on their hands.

But it can also easily happen when remodeling a home built before 1978 because of the dust caused during the construction process. When surfaces are agitated by sanding, scraping, grinding, chipping, sand blasting, or torn out for demolition, lead based particles can become airborne in the dust and easily breathed or ingested. Any construction processes that use heat guns or open flame torching are also particularly prone to activate lead.

It’s not just those places we mentioned before where lead based paint was prevalent, but homeowners should be cautious about peeling paint on ceilings, walls, metallic surfaces, enamel paint, and primers that were pink or red.

What precautions can you take against lead based paint?
 If you have peeling or flaking paint, controlling dust and any loose particles is key.
Wipe down flat surfaces with a damp paper towel and then discard of the towel immediately.
Wet mop floors to keep dust down.
Vacuum carpets regularly in rooms you suspect have lead based paint. You can find a good vacuum with a HEPA filter or a "higher efficiency" collection bag.
If you do find loose paint chips, pick them up with a damp paper towel and discard of them and the towel immediately in a closed container.
Look out for exterior porches, bare patches in the soil or garden, and other areas children may spend time.

How about remodeling?
When remodeling it’s especially important to be cautious of surfaces constructed or painted before 1978.  Make sure to contain dust in any room you’re working in with plastic covers and door slips. Plastic off air vents and registers so lead particles don’t get sucked up into the heat and AC ducts. Use certified contractors who follow all the precautions and federal and state guidelines for lead. 

But remember that if you do find lead paint, it doesn’t mean you have to go through a lengthy, intensive, and costly abatement process like with asbestos. If lead paint is in decent condition, you can paint over it with several coats of modern, lead-free paints, which will effectively seal the toxic lead as long as the surface coat is in good shape.

Testing for lead in the home.
There are several ways you can also easily test your home for harmful lead. There are DIY kits you can purchase at Home Depot or hardware stores that allow you to test paint, more sophisticated measures used by professionals, or you can call in a local or federal agency to test if you suspect high levels of lead. The government has set out acceptable levels of lead in the home as:

40 micrograms per square foot (μg/ft2) for floors, including carpeted floors
250 μg/ft2 for interior windows sills
400 μg/ft2 for window troughs
400 parts per million (ppm) and higher in play areas of bare soil

According to the Centers for Disease Control, lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter are cause for alarm and public health action.

If you rent your home then ask your landlord to address any peeling or flaking paint and document everything. If you’re a landlord, your responsibility starts with knowing when your home was built, last painted or remodeled, and if there’s the possibility for loose lead based paint.

Have your children tested.
It’s important to have all children tested for lead levels in their blood, optimally between the ages of 1 and 2 because their lead blood levels tend to rise sharply between 6 and 12 months. They should have a second test between the ages of 3 and 6 because levels tend to peak around 24 months of age. Your state or local health agency has recommended screening plans they outline, and doctors and family physicians are aware of these issues.

Where to get more information about lead hazards:
U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
National Lead Information Center at, or contact at 1-800-424-LEAD.

1 comment:

  1. Thanx for sharing such a nice information with us. And we all know that it's necessary to perform lead inspection of your home in a gap of 1 month as this will help in identifying the issues in your home.