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A Primer on Lead-Based Paints


One of the most pressing concerns for homeowners who own or are looking to buy an older home is the fact that the walls and other surfaces were likely painted with lead-based paint. According to the EPA, 87 percent of all homes built before 1940 contain lead paint, and a much lower 24 percent of all homes built between 1960 and 1977 harbor this highly toxic paint. As such, it is vitally important for owners (and potential buyers) of older homes to know the facts about lead paint -- especially before undergoing any home renovation or restoration projects!

Danger of Lead-Based Paints

Lead paints are dangerous to homeowners because they contain high amounts of lead, a highly toxic heavy metal. It poses the greatest risk for children and pregnant women, but in all honesty, it is harmful to all humans, so it's best to proceed with caution if you own an older home. If ingested or inhaled -- in other words, if lead somehow ends up in your body -- it can cause untold damage to your brain, nervous system, and other vital organs. It can also cause learning disabilities and behavioral problems in children.

Lead paints are most dangerous in a home if they are disturbed -- in other words, chipped, sanded, scraped, peeled, or damp. For this reason, homeowners must be especially cautious when doing any home renovation or painting activities. Lead paints are also problematic when found on window sills or staircase banisters that are frequently touched by people in the home.

Testing for Lead-Based Paint in Your Home

If you live in an older home and are concerned that it might contain lead paint, the easiest way to find out is to use a DIY home lead test kit, available at most hardware and home improvement stores. One thing to be aware of is that there are two kinds of test kits -- sulfide-based test kits (not good for darker paint colors) and rhodizonate-based test kits (not good for red or pink paint colors). You can also hire a professional for the job, but this will cost considerably more than the $100 that you spend for a DIY test kit.

If you (or a professional) determine that your home does in fact contain lead paint, you will need to contact a certified inspector to do a thorough check of your home. This is no laughing matter and something that needs to be done correctly, thoroughly, and efficiently in order to minimize everyone's exposure within the home.

After doing a thorough assessment of your home, the inspector will be able to make a recommendation as far as what to do about the lead in the home. Sometimes, it is best to hire an abatement professional in order to fully remove the lead, and in other instances it makes more sense to follow a "lead maintenance plan" which outlines steps for you to take to minimize your exposure to the toxic substance. In either case, it is imperative that you use highly skilled professionals who follow all EPA guidelines and work safely and efficiently in your home. As we always say, safety first!


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