Lead - General Information
Lead is a highly toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around our homes. Lead may cause a range of health effects, from behavioral problems and learning disabilities, to seizures and death.
Lead Contamination in the Home
Lead from different sources such as lead-based paint, gasoline, and solder may enter the body through air, food, water, dust, and soil. Lead poisoning is a threat, especially to young children. For preschool children the most widespread and dangerous high-dose source of lead exposure is lead-based paint. Throughout the 1940's and 1950's lead-based paint was in widespread use. It continued to be used in lower concentrations until the mid-1970's. The manufacture of paint containing high concentrations of lead for interior and exterior residential surfaces, toys, and furniture was banned in 1978 by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Paint with high lead content is estimated to be in 74 percent of all housing built before 1980. Those housing units containing deteriorating lead-based paint are the major concern. Of even greater concern is these homes that have young children as occupants. When lead-based paint on surfaces is broken, sanded, or scraped, it breaks into tiny, sometimes invisible, pieces that children may swallow or inhale.
The risk of lead poisoning is related to both the presence and the condition of the paint. Lead-based paint is typically found on kitchen and bathroom walls. Pre-1950 homes may have lead-based paint throughout on doors, windows, and wooden trim. The risks of lead poisoning are greater when lead-based paint has deteriorated or when lead-based paint (even intact paint) is located on surfaces accessible to children. Lead-based paint on interior and exterior windows is particularly of concern because it is abraded into dust by the repeated opening and closing of the windows.
Lead poisoning can result from renovation or remodeling of homes when lead dust is generated by sanding, scraping or heating lead-based paint. Before older homes undergo any renovation that may generate dust, they should be tested for the presence of lead-based paint. If such paint is found, contractors experienced in working with lead-based paint should do the renovation. Lead-based paint in good condition is not usually a problem except in places where painted surfaces rub against each other and create dust.
Testing for Lead
With homes built in the 1950's or earlier, it is reasonable to assume that the house has lead paint. Therefore, it may be cheaper to perform any renovation work under the assumption that lead paint is present than to test for it in advance. Contact your local public health organization for information on lead inspection services and testing laboratories in your area. To receive a list of certified laboratories, call the National Lead Information Center Clearinghouse at 1-800-424-LEAD.
You can get your home checked in several ways:
(Be aware, these types of tests can be expensive.)
A paint inspection tells you the lead content of every different type of painted surface in your home. It won't tell you whether the paint is a hazard or how you should deal with it.
A risk assessment tells you if there are any sources of serious lead exposure (such as peeling paint and lead dust). It also tells you what actions to take to address these hazards.
Have qualified professionals do the work. There are standards in place for certifying lead-based paint professionals to ensure the work is done safely, reliably, and effectively. Contact the National Lead Information Center (NLIC) for a list of contacts in your area.
Trained professionals use a range of methods when checking your home, including:
Visual inspection of paint condition and location.
A portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) machine.
Lab tests of paint samples.
Surface dust tests.
A professional testing company can come into your home and use portable x-ray fluorescence that analyzes several layers of paint and provides immediate results. Because the testing device is a complex piece of equipment, for reliable results, it must be operated by trained technicians. Home test kits are available at some local hardware stores, but may not give accurate results.
The above paraphrased (or quoted where indicated) information was taken from the U.S. Government EPA and CDC websites concerning lead. You will find a wealth of information there as well as web links to other information resources. We are not “experts” on lead and are providing what we believe is accurate information from reliable resources. However, we cannot guarantee (nor be held liable) that this information is true or up to date, nor that the resources upon which we relied are knowledgeable or accurate.
If you would like more helpful information on lead, please visit the following websites: