Before the 1970s, household paint often contained lead. As lead paint ages, it can chip or crumble into dust. Exposure to lead-paint dust or chips can cause serious health problems. Children and pregnant women are at higher risk. So, if you live in or own an older home, you need to know how to protect yourself and others.

If your home was built before 1978, there is a very good chance that there is lead paint.  If you are buying a home or even leasing a home, federal law requires a lead-based paint disclosure be supplied.  It is possible that the current owner has no idea or if the home is for sale by bank they have no prior knowledge of the contents of the home. How can you find out?

If you are buying a home without a completed disclosure, renting a home that the owner would not have that information available or renovating a home built before 1978 where you will be disturbing more than 2 square feet of painted surfaces you need to understand the hazards of lead based paint. Because of the wide spread usage of lead paints before 1978, it is a good possibility that you will find evidence, however, rather than guess, there are testing methods.  Home kits are available and while they will tell you if there is lead they are not a good predictor of hazard.  A paint inspection can be requested with or without a risk assessment.  The EPA recommends hiring a trained and certified testing professional who will us a XRF machine, lab tests of paint, dust and soil samples.

  • If you are not sure that there is lead paint but want to keep your family safe there are a few simple precautions you can take.
  • Immediately take care of chipping paint.  Do not sand paint that may contain lead as will create lead dust.  Chipped paint needs to be immediately disposed of.
  • Cover lead paint by painting over possible offenders.  While this doesn't cure the problem it is a quick solution to protect your family until abatement can occur.  
  • Frequently check play areas and high traffic areas for signs that paint is cracking.
  • If you are remodeling, remove small children and if possible women of child bearing years.

A complete guide to lead-paint and renovating can be found in this EPA document. While paint isn't the only source of possible lead contamination; it is the most common.  If you think your family may have been exposed, it is important to get tested. Children who may have been exposed to lead-based paint should have a blood test to see if they have elevated blood levels.