Should You Be Concerned About
Lead-Based Paint In Your Home?
Article by | Jen Zwieacker, Zwieacker & Associates
Frequently found in homes constructed before 1978, lead-based paint is toxic to humans and animals. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, lead from lead-based paint is one of the most common causes of lead poisoning.
Lead’s Effects On Human Beings
Ingesting lead is particularly dangerous to children. Children’s growing bodies absorb more lead. Under the age of 6, children‘s brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to lead’s damaging effects. Even low lead exposure levels can cause nervous system and kidney damage, decreased muscle and bone growth, and language or behavioral problems.
In adults, lead can cause an increased chance of illness during pregnancy, harm to a fetus (including brain damage or death), fertility problems (men and women), high blood pressure, digestive problems, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems, and muscle and joint pain.
While the EPA estimates 87% of homes built before 1940 contain lead-based paint, only 24% of homes built between 1960 and 1977 contain the toxic substance. The United States banned use of lead-containing paint in consumer settings in 1978.
Lead-based paint is usually not a hazard if it’s in good condition and not on an impactor friction surface, like a window. Deteriorating lead-based paint is especially hazardous when found on surfaces that children and pets can chew. Peeling, chipping, chalking, cracking or damaged lead-based paint surfaces should be addressed immediately. This is especially important since lead can be inhaled and ingested from dust.
Lead may also be found in soil around a home. Soil can pick up lead from exterior paint or other sources such as past use of leaded gas in cars. Lead in soil may be a hazard when children play in soil, eat food from gardens near older homes, or even bring soil into the house on their shoes.
Testing Your Home
You can have your home tested for lead by hiring a trained and certified professional to do an inspection, which will tell you whether your home has lead-based paint, where it is located and what actions to take to address any hazards.
There are federal programs in place to ensure that testing is done safely, reliably and effectively. Contact our RegionalEPA Office at 800-887-6063 for additional information and a list of contacts in this area.
To temporarily reduce lead hazards at your home, start by repairing damaged painted surfaces and planting grass to cover the soil with high lead levels. These are not permanent solutions and will require ongoing attention but are a solid start to addressing the issue.
To permanently remove lead hazards, we recommend hiring a certified lead abatement contractor. Abatement methods include removing, sealing or enclosing lead-based paint with special materials. You’ll want to move your family from the home during this process to prevent anyone from inhaling or ingesting any toxic lead dust or fumes.
Testing Your Children
Consult your doctor for advice on testing your children. A simple blood test can detect high levels of lead. Blood tests are usually recommended for children at ages one and two and children or other family members who may have been exposed to lead.
The National Lead Information Center website (http://www.epa.gov/lead/nlic.html) has more information regarding lead hazards. Call 800-424-LEAD(5323) for more information.