How to deal with the threat of lead paint
If you or someone you know is planning work on a pre-1978 home, take precautions against the possibility of lead poisoning.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about 500,000 U.S children ages 1 to 5 have elevated lead levels in their blood. Lead paint, estimated to exist in 40 percent of the U.S. housing stock, is considered the most hazardous source of lead for U.S. children, along with lead-contaminated dust.
Even a tiny amount of lead can cause nervous-system, kidney, hearing or other damage, as well as development problems. Children age 6 and younger are at special risk, because they lack the developed blood-brain barrier that protects older children and adults from more severe effects.
Since 1978, the federal government has banned residential use of lead-based paint. But old paint can chip. Also, any project that disturbs old paint — such as painting, remodeling or window installation — can create dust and debris that an infant or child may inhale or ingest. That’s why the Environmental Protection Agency has required, since 2010, that contractors whose work disturbs lead paint be trained and certified in proper safety techniques.
If you own a pre-1978 house, or your kids spend time in one, spend the time and money it takes to ensure that a home-improvement project doesn’t create a health hazard. Follow these tips from Angie Hicks of Angie’s List:
• Hire someone to test your home for lead. There are in-home kits you can buy, but for more certainty, hire a reputable, experienced lead-detection service.
• Ask any painting or remodeling contractor you’re considering if the company is appropriately certified in lead-safe practices.
• Don’t just take their word for it. Verify that the company is, indeed, certified. Visit cfpub.epa.gov/flpp/.
• Ask a company representative which individual employees are trained. Verify their certification. Make sure at least one employee trained in lead-safe practices will supervise your job.
• During the project, notice how workers deal with and dispose of debris. Look for use of HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arresting) filters and plastic sheeting. Compare what you witness with recommended practices.
• If you’re doing your own painting or remodeling, take time to research and follow lead-safety techniques. Visit cdc.gov/nceh/lead/tips.htm.