Lead-Based Paint Lurking in Your Home
Joseph F. Boyd
published March, 2002, Howard County
So spring is around the corner and you're now ready to tackle all of those
home projects that you put off last year and maybe even the year before. You've
finally mustered up the motivation to repair that peeling paint in the bedroom,
or to resurface and repaint the front porch, or better yet, knock out that wall
for the new room you've always envisioned. Like all do-it-yourselfers, the
objective is to complete the job right away before you lose the motivation. And
sometimes that means not taking the necessary precautions that could protect you
and you family from the health hazards that can be created from unknowingly
disturbing lead-based paint. It is medically proven that low-level exposure to
lead dust can produce a myriad of damaging effects to the neurological,
cardiovascular, and reproductive systems in children and adults.
So where can I expect to find lead-based paint?
The State of Maryland banned the use of interior lead-based paint in
residences in 1950, but it was still available to the consumer in the form of
exterior paints and stains until 1978. Approximately 80% of residences built
before 1978 contain some lead-based paint. Not only can lead be found in
paint, but on a wide variety of building components, such as pre-manufactured
windows and window sills, doors and door frames, stairs, railings, banisters,
and house exteriors.
Remember, lead-based paint that is in good condition is usually not a
hazard. A lead dust hazard can arise when lead-based paint is dry-scraped,
dry sanded, or heated. And if improperly removed or disturbed, lead dust can
remain in the home long after the work is completed, becoming a serious health
hazard, especially for young children.
What steps should I take before renovating?
If you are going to be remodeling, repairing, or repainting in a residence
that was built before 1978, it is safest to assume that you are working with
lead-based paint until you can prove that it is not. In-home test kits are
available in home improvement stores, but they have yet to be certified by the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Consumers should not rely on these tests to assure their safety during
renovations. It is recommended to have the painted surface to be renovated
tested by an EPA certified Lead inspector Technician or Risk Assessor.
If you choose to have a contractor conduct the work, be sure that they are
licensed to perform work dealing with lead-based paint using lead safe work
practices. If you choose to conduct the renovation yourself, take the necessary
precautions to protect yourself and your family from lead dust exposure,
including, but not limited to using a half-face High Efficiency Particulate Air
(HEPA) filter, at a minimum, wet sanding as opposed to dry sanding, and sealing
off the work area from the rest of the house, if your family can not be
If you have already completed renovations that could have released
lead-based paint or dust, it is imperative that any young children who might
have been exposed be tested. Numerous brochures concerning residential
renovations and lead-based paint are available online on the EPA's website or
can be obtained from the National Lead Information Clearinghouse by calling
1-800-424-LEAD. Let's make your home improvement projects safe ones
Boyd is an Environmental Scientist with Building Consultants, Inc. In
addition to his experience performing Phase I Environmental Site Assessments, he
is also an IAQA certified mold assessor, as well as a certified Lead Based Paint
and Asbestos Containing Material Building Inspector.
He can be reached at BCI at (410) 715-2277 or jboyd@eConstructionServices.com.
BCI provides expert project review for real estate transactions.