What to Do If Lead Paint Is Found In Your Home

While many people consider lead paint to be a safety issue of the past, homes built before 1978 could have used it somewhere inside or outside. Potential hazards vary, as paint that’s undisturbed poses less of a risk.

However, cracking, chipping or peeling paint or wall material can generate chips and dust, exposing occupants to this risk. Even if older lead paint has been coated for years with another non-lead based substance, exposure can still result.

Based on the design of your home, you may find remnants of lead paint on the walls, doors, windows, stairs, railings, porch, deck, furniture and even the soil outside. Understand the hazards of lead paint and what to do if you encounter it.

Hazards of Lead Paint

For most of the 20th century, lead was included in paint for its fast-drying capabilities but the federal government implemented regulations in the late 1970s to eliminate it from household paint products.

Exposure stems from ingesting or breathing in lead as dust or larger particles. Although exposure can affect people of all ages, children under age six are especially vulnerable due to their developing bodies and inclination to touch and put things in their mouths.

Long-term exposure increases a child’s risk for lead poisoning, which can cause brain and nervous system damage, developmental delays, headaches and cognitive issues, hyperactivity, slower growth, kidney damage and hearing problems.

While adults have a lower risk, routinely breathing in lead-containing dust can elevate blood pressure, contribute to anemia, kidney damage, nervous system disorders and fertility issues, and result in muscle, memory and vision issues.

How to Tell If Your Home Contains Lead Paint

Especially if you’re planning to renovate an older home, identifying lead paint can help you reduce exposure to this hazard. Whoever is selling you the property needs to disclose the presence of lead paint. Before you make any changes, you’re advised to have an inspection conducted. Understand your options:

  • Paint inspections pinpoint where lead paint is located in your home. Using a hand-held X-ray device to prevent disturbing any paint, a professional collects samples from multiple interior and exterior spots, including areas covered by wallpaper, and sends them to a laboratory participating in the EPA’s National Lead Laboratory Accreditation Program. The results will list the hazard as positive or negative but this assessment does not identify the severity of the health hazard. It’s up to you to determine how you plan to improve the issue.
  • Risk assessments go a bit deeper, identifying locations of lead paint, deterioration and potential risks. The assessment includes interior and exterior areas but won’t test spots that have been painted over. You will be given recommendations to improve the conditions present.
  • A hazard screen is an alternative for homes with a theoretically lower lead exposure hazard. This test involves collecting samples of dust to determine if lead is present. Should it be found, you’re advised to undergo more thorough testing.
  • At-home test kits are considered a last resort, as the EPA recommends having a professional assess your home. Because you have to take your own samples, exposure risks exist and results are not always accurate or detailed. You can either use a do-it-yourself kit or send your samples to an EPA-approved lab for analysis.

Steps to Take If You Find Lead Paint

If the results of your testing method comes back positive:

  • Eliminate as much lead paint and dust as you can, while wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Develop a plan to control dust in your home. Thoroughly clean all rags and mops after removing dust and avoid bringing your shoes into the house.
  • Repair areas with damaged or chipping paint as soon as possible.
  • Find out if your state considers lead paint hazardous waste. If so, you will need to separate any rags, tools or waste coming in contact with lead paint and drop them off at a hazardous waste collection site.
  • Long term, work with a certified lead abatement contractor to manage the hazard. This may entail fully removing the paint, securely sealing off the area or constructing a hazard screen made of drywall, vinyl or aluminum. In the process, the contractor takes care to reduce exposure risks.

In the event you’re planning to renovate your home or schedule a lead paint abatement, discuss all the expected changes with your homeowner’s insurance carrier. To get started, contact HUB International today.