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Lead Based Paint: Dangers, Detection, & Remediation

by | Oct 20, 2023 | Construction and Remodeling, Home Maintenance

Do you live in a home built before 1978? If you do, you should understand that your home could contain old paint that contains lead. Lead based paint was used almost exclusively in older homes and buildings up until the 1960s. The older the home or building, the more likely it had a lead-based paint used.  In 1978 paint manufacturers were no longer allowed to produce lead paint due to health concerns mainly for small children as it was found to hurt brain development. 

Some fairly simple tests can be done to determine if your home has lead paint.  It is nothing to worry about in most cases.  If you are having any type of construction work or painting work done and you think your home may contain lead paint, it is best to have some testing done prior to starting the project if you need to disturb the older layers of paint.

We often ask customers if they have had lead paint testing done and they will usually tell us that the home was just painted recently so it does not have lead paint.  This is not a true statement as they just put paint on top of the old lead paint.  It could have 10 coats of lead paint over the top of the original layers but it is still there and could be disturbed with construction work.       

What is Lead Based Paint

Lead was used in many products dating back to the Roman Empire. The inexpensive metal helped in adding color to paints and helped the paint dry faster and cover better.  It was popular for painting homes, buildings, and other items like children’s toys.  Lead paint worked very well but for years the risks were unknown.   

Unveiling Lead Paint Dangers & Risks 

The health risks from lead exposure can be quite severe and even cause death in some cases.  According to the EPA, lead is especially dangerous to children under six. Exposure can cause brain development issues, learning disabilities, reduced IQ, and behavior problems in young children.  Children can be exposed to lead by just eating, playing, and doing other normal activities when lead is present.   

Lead can also cause problems in adults, including high blood pressure, hypertension, and many other issues.  It can also cause problems for pregnant women as it can be transferred to the fetuses.  We can get exposed to lead paint by breathing or ingesting the dust or by eating paint chips…

Lead paint is typically safe until it gets disturbed.  The most common ways to disturb lead paint happen when work is going on that requires cutting, sanding, scraping, washing, burning, or blasting it.  If not done correctly the lead dust can spread a long way and contaminate the interior or exterior of the home or building.  Homeowners doing DIY projects often cause the lead to contaminate their homes without ever knowing it. 

Lead can get into the ground on the exterior of the home or building very easily which may cause the need to do remediation and removal of the ground around a building.  It can also get into water sources and be airborne very easily.  We recommend not doing a project that could possibly expose you or your family to dangerous levels of lead.  If you have a concern that it might be an issue you should contact a professional to come do testing for you or hire a company that is lead certified to do the job for you. 

If you are not disturbing the lead paint you do not have to worry about it.  If you have walls, doors, or trim in your home that you are painting and you are not sanding, scraping, or cutting you can likely paint over the top of the existing paint without causing any problems.  If you see paint peeling or flaking off you should be concerned.  If you are painting the exterior of your home and none of the older paints are peeling or needing to be sanded or scraped you are fine to paint over the existing paint without problems.           

Identifying the Presence of Lead Paint in Homes 

So any home built prior to 1978 is a possible risk for lead based paint.  It is possible that homes built in the early 1980s could have had lead paint but it is very unlikely.  If your home was built in the 1970’s the odds are fairly low that you have lead paint.  In the 1950s-1960s the odds are more like 50-60% that it had lead paint.  Anything prior to 1950 is almost 100% that it had lead paint.  

If your home ever had any major remodeling they may have removed all of the old paint and it may not be an issue.  Many older homes have had siding replaced which may have taken care of the lead issue.  Some people even paid to get the lead paint removed from the home but that is always hard to tell unless you have paperwork proving it.  

Lead paint can be found on interior walls, ceilings, doors, millwork, and cabinets.  It can also be found on any exterior surface that has older siding or trim.  We find it more in exterior and interior trim but it can be anywhere.   

How to Test for Lead Paint: DIY vs Professional 

You can purchase lead test kits at most hardware and paint stores or online.  They seem to do a good job of determining lead content if used correctly.  Sometimes the results are very obvious and other times it is hard to tell if lead is present or not.  We do recommend having a professional do the testing to be safe even if you have to pay for the testing.  Some professionals have better testing equipment to check for lead paint.  If you want to find a contractor that is certified to test for lead paint visit the EPA website at epa.gov/lead/ or contact the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD(5323).     

Effective Methods for Lead Paint Remediation

The key to working with lead paint is containment and safety for the workers.  Contractors must let homeowners know about the lead paint remediation prior to starting work and give them the EPA guide called Renovate Right so they have the information.  

It is extremely hard to contain all lead paint if you are not a professional who does it regularly.  As a homeowner, you can certainly learn the process but it can be expensive with all of the equipment that is needed.  We recommend a high level of masking in the work areas to contain the dust.  Workers should wear full coveralls and respirators to keep from getting lead dust on them or breathing it.  You will likely need a vacuum with HEPA filters to clean up after and learn how to properly dispose of the debris.  If you are going to hire a painting contractor to work on your home, make sure they are lead-certified and know what they are doing first!

Professional Lead Based Paint Detection & Remediation with Absolute! 

At Absolute Painting & Power Washing we are certified to work on homes built prior to 1978 that may contain lead paint.  We can test your home for lead paint and let you know how to best deal with it.  Make sure to protect your family by learning more before you start any projects.

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