Lead Paint

Where is lead found in the home?

Lead-based paint was used in homes until the late 1970s, and was especially common before the 1950s. The most common places to find lead-based paint are areas where high durability is required: doors, doorframes, windows, woodwork, and furniture. Lead-based paint becomes a hazard when it starts to wear, chip, or peel, or while it is being removed by sanding or stripping.

Lead-based paint is of primary concern to home remodelers and occupants of older homes, especially those families with children.

remodeling Lead-based paint is of primary concern to home remodelers and occupants of older homes, especially those families with children.

Exposure to lead can occur by ingesting paint chips, inhaling lead dust, or drinking water that has been contaminated when drawn through pipes with lead solder. In addition, the soil around homes near roads may be contaminated with lead from years of exposure to gasoline exhaust fumes. Lead can get into the home environment from lead-based paint, dust contaminated with lead-based paint, soils contaminated with lead from paint, water, engines burning leaded gas, industrial uses of lead, lead-glazed ceramic pottery, lead solder on some food cans, and food products grown in lead-contaminated soils.

How does lead affect the human body?

The greatest health threat is inhalation or ingestion of the dust from lead-based paint as it wears and disintegrates.

Lead exposure can damage the central nervous system, and even at low levels, it can affect system development. In children, this can result in lowered IQ scores, and birth defects can occur if pregnant women are exposed. A blood test can determine a person's blood-lead level.

How do you test for lead?

Lead-containing materials generally cannot be recognized by sight, and identification by special testing is needed.

Home lead testing kits can sometimes identify sources of lead in a home, but these may not detect low levels. Laboratory evaluations of home lead test kits, performed over the last ten years or so, have shown that such kits can, for a variety of reasons, give false readings. Therefore, it is recommended that home test kits not be depended upon to determine the presence or concentration of lead in an article. X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy is much more reliable, but it requires specialized equipment and training.

Where can the lead test kit be used?

There may be some situations in which home test kits will give usable results. Kits involve chemical reactions that produce visible color changes in the presence of some lead compounds. However, you must know something of the chemistry of the family of materials being tested, the possible interferences with elements besides lead, and the presence of coatings that may mask the lead compounds in order to judge whether the test kit's results are reliable.

specialist Specialized, licensed lead abatement contractors are trained in the safe removal or encapsulation of this pollutant.

How do you remove lead?

Lead-based paint, if in good condition and left undisturbed, may pose little health threat. But it may need to be covered or sealed to reduce exposure. Deterioration of lead-based paint increases the likelihood that the residents of the home will be exposed to the hazard. Dangerous levels of exposure increase when painted areas are disturbed during renovation. Lead "abatement" (removal) is usually NOT a "do-it-yourself" activity. Careless removal can pose serious health risks. Specialized, licensed lead abatement contractors are trained in the safe removal or encapsulation of this pollutant. Professional removal may be expensive.

How can you make your home safe?

  • Replace painted items without creating lead dust, if possible; for example, install a new door or molding.
  • If the paint cannot be removed easily, cover it with new plaster, wallboard, or paneling.
  • Remove the item from the home if you must strip the lead-based paint (for example, to maintain the historic integrity of molding).
  • Avoid sanding, scraping, or burning lead paint.
  • Call a reputable lead abatement professional to remove the paint.

For more information

Contact your local U of I Extension office or visit these web sites:

Healthy Indoor Air for America's Homes
http://www.healthyindoorair.org

Environmental Protection Agency
http://www.epa.gov/lead

or call the National Lead Information Center
at 1 (800) 424-LEAD
HUD Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control
http://www.hud.gov/offices/lead/index.cfm