Lead Paint

Well, spring is almost here and many folks are in the mood to freshen up their house and do some redecorating.  It might be a whole room, or maybe just some trim.  When doing redecorating or remodeling, you need to be aware of any potential hazards you might encounter.  In an earlier article, I addressed asbestos.  Today I want to talk about lead paint.  If you live in a home built after 1980, you do not need to read any further—carry on with your plans. For the rest of you, here’s the scoop.

Lead-based paints were made illegal in the U.S. in 1977.  Homes built prior to that have a good chance of having lead-based paints on the inside as well as the outside surfaces.  We usually see this kind of paint on woodwork such as base boards, door trim, and window trim.  If you live in a home that has natural, unpainted trim, your chances of having lead paint in your home is greatly diminished.   Because not all countries have banned lead paint, it is important to know the location of the manufacturer of furniture and even toys.  In the last year, China has been in the news several times because many of their products still have lead-based paint on them.

What to Look for and When to be Concerned

The primary concern is chipped and peeling paint.  Most homes have several layers of paint on the interior as well as the exterior.  Since it has been 35 years since lead-based paint has been available, there is a high probability that there is at least one layer and maybe two to three layers of paint over the lead-based paint.  As long as the old paint is encased in a solid cover, there is not much concern.  It is when the paint starts to peel that the old lead paint is exposed.

Scraping off the old paint or sanding the surface is when the problem begins.  The dust from sanding is just as dangerous to children and adults as chewing on the paint chips.  The first thing to do is to have any surface that you want to work on, or that needs to be worked on, tested for the presence of lead.  Kits can be purchased on-line or at your local hardware store.  Ideally, you should have a professional do the testing.  If you find that lead-based paint is present, you have two choices.  Call in a professional EPA certified contractor to remove the lead material, or just paint over it.  The latter may not be feasible, particularly if you are doing major remodeling, i.e. removing a wall, or replacing old windows.

If you want to spruce up the exterior of your old home, it is now quite frankly cheaper to install siding on the home than to have a professional painter remove or scrape down the old paint.  The EPA implemented new regulations in 2011 that require contractors be certified or face extremely high fines. As usual, the higher cost of doing business gets passed on to the consumer.

Soooo, if you live in an old home, look for chipped and peeling paint surfaces.  If you plan to remodel a room, have the painted surfaces tested for lead paint. Removal of lead paint is no longer a DIY job.  You risk your own and your family’s health if you try to do it yourself.   Also check the manufacturer before you buy any product.  This is one area where “Made in USA” is ideal.

For more information on lead paint please go to www.epa.gov/lead.


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