Many houses and apartments built before 1978 have paint that contains lead known as lead-based paint. Federal law requires that individuals receive certain information before renting or buying homes built pre-1978. If you are planning to buy or rent a home built before 1978 or think your home might have lead hazards, read this guide to learn how to identify possible lead hazards and simple steps to protect your family and your health from the dangers health effects of lead exposure.
The federal government banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978. In the past, lead was used to make common items found in or near most homes. These items were not just limited to paint but included gasoline, water pipes, and food cans. At one point in time, manufacturers added lead pigments in the paint to make it cling to the surface better and last longer. Some homes may have plumbing that uses lead pipes or lead solder. If this is the case, you should call your local health department or water supplier to find out about testing your water.
Where is Lead Likely to be a Hazard?Deteriorating lead-based paint ( peeling, chipping, chalking, cracking, or damaged paint is a hazard and needs immediate attention. Which can be a hazard when found on surfaces that children can chew or that withstand a lot of wear and tear, such as:
- On windows and window sills
- Doors and door frames
- Stairs, railings, banisters, porches and fences
Although lead-based paint is usually not a hazard if it is in good condition and if it is not on an impact or friction surface like a window. Keep in mind that paint chips and lead dust which you may or not be able to see, both can be hazards. The best way to know, if your home has lead paint, dust, or soil lead hazards is to test for them. Lead dust can form when lead-based paint is dry-scraped, dry-sanded, or heated. Dust also forms when painted surfaces bump or rub together. Lead chips and dust can get on surfaces and objects that people touch. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air when people vacuum, sweep or walk through it. Lead in soil can be a hazard when children play in bare soil, or when people bring soil into the house on their shoes.
Checking Your Family and Home for LeadIf you suspect that your home has a high level of lead, have your children and home tested. The fact alone that a home has lead-based paint may not tell you if there is a hazard. In order to reduce your family’s exposure to lead, you will need to have your home tested and fix any hazards you may have. Make sure to have your children checked and your doctor will be able to explain what the test results mean and if more testing is required.
What Are Your Options For Testing For Lead?You can get your home checked in one of two ways (or both): 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 that the work is done safely, reliably and effectively. Be sure to ask your InterNACHI inspector about lead paint during your next inspection. Trained professionals use a range of methods when checking your home, including:
- a visual inspection of paint condition and location;
- a portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) machine;
- lab tests of paint samples; and surface-dust tests
What You Can Do to Protect Your FamilyIf you suspect that your house has lead hazards, you can take some immediate steps to reduce your family's risk:
- If you rent, notify your landlord of peeling or chipping paint.
- Clean up paint chips immediately.
- Clean floors, window frames, window sills, and other surfaces weekly. Use a mop, sponge or paper towel with warm water and a general all-purpose cleaner, or a cleaner made specifically for lead.
- Keep your children from chewing window sills or other painted surfaces, or eating soil.
- Wash your hands and your children’s hands often, especially before they eat and before nap time and bedtime.
- Keep play areas clean. Wash bottles, pacifiers, toys, and stuffed animals regularly.
- Clean or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from soil.
- Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads often during cleaning of dirty or dusty areas, and again afterward.