The dangers of lead paint: Lead paint was used in homes until 1978 when it was banned for residential use. Unfortunately, many older homes still have lead paint on their walls and trim. Lead paint chips and dust are highly toxic, especially to young children. So, knowing how to identify lead paint and properly manage it is crucial for keeping your family safe.
Read on to learn how to deal with lead paint.
The dangers of lead paint: What is Lead Paint, and Why is it Dangerous?
Lead paint contains lead, a heavy metal extremely harmful to human health, especially children’s developing brains and nervous systems. When lead paint deteriorates into chips or is disturbed, it creates dust that can be easily inhaled or ingested. Children often put their hands and toys in their mouths, ingesting lead dust. Even at low levels, lead exposure can damage brain development leading to reduced IQ, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and more. Seizures, coma, and even death can occur at high lead levels.
While banned for home use, lead paint was famous for many decades because of its durability and vibrant colors. Homes built before 1960 are likely to contain lead paint, while those built between 1960 and 1978 may also have some. It is commonly found on window frames, door frames, railings, walls, ceilings, and exterior siding—the first clue to identifying potential lead paint hazards is to know how old your home is.
The dangers of lead paint: How to Tell if You Have Lead Paint
You can use a couple of methods to test for the presence of lead paint in your home.
Checking Paint Chips
One option is to carefully scratch small paint chips from various surfaces around the home. Focus on older painted woodwork like windows, doors, and railings. Take multiple chips from different areas and have them tested by an accredited lab. If the paint chips contain 5,000 parts per million (ppm) of lead or more, lead-based paint is present. While checking paint chips doesn’t assess all the paint, it confirms if those sampled contain hazardous lead levels.
The dangers of lead paint: Lead Inspection
The most thorough way to assess for lead paint is to hire a certified lead inspector or risk assessor. They use specialized equipment like portable X-ray fluorescence analyzers to scan painted surfaces and detect if lead is present. This type of professional testing can cover more areas than primary paint chip samples. A full inspection will check multiple rooms or the entire home and provide detailed results on where lead paint is located. Some inspectors even offer risk assessments to identify if the lead paint poses an immediate hazard based on condition and exposure levels. They also have expertise in lead abatement solutions.
Steps to Take if You Have Lead Paint
If your home tests positive for lead paint, don’t panic. There are essential steps you should take to protect yourself and your family.
Stop Disturbing the Paint
If the lead paint is in good condition, leave it intact and avoid disturbing it. Don’t sand, scrape, strip, or otherwise damage the painted surface, which could release hazardous lead dust. Cover any chipping or flaking areas with contact paper or duct tape. Also, keep young children from lead painted areas since they naturally tend to mouth surfaces.
The dangers of lead paint: Consult a Professional
Speak with a certified lead abatement contractor about your options. Since lead paint encapsulation and removal require special training, only professionals should undertake any major project to enclose, seal, or remove lead paint from your home. A good abatement contractor can advise you on the best solution.
Take Temporary Safety Measures
In addition to leaving the paint undisturbed, you can take some temporary precautions to protect your family while living in a home with lead paint:
- Clean all window wells, chewable surfaces, and floors frequently with a lead-removing cleaner
- Use a HEPA filter vacuum when cleaning carpets or upholstery
- Wash all children’s toys often
- Have young children wash hands and faces frequently, especially before eating
- Keep play areas clean by wet mopping floors and wet wiping all surfaces
- Cover bare soil areas with grass, plants, bark, or gravel
These measures will help minimize everyday lead dust exposure until a permanent solution can be implemented.
Safely Covering or Removing Lead Paint
If encapsulating, sealing, or removing lead paint becomes necessary, be very careful in your approach. Any disturbance of lead paint surfaces poses risks.
Painting Over Lead Paint
Painting over lead paint with regular latex paint is usually considered safe for DIY work. Be sure to wear an N95 respirator mask and protective clothing. Lightly mist surfaces with water before sanding or scraping to minimize dust. Clean up thoroughly using a HEPA vacuum and wet mopping. Apply a high-quality oil-based primer followed by two coats of latex paint. Perform this work when children are not present.
The dangers of lead paint: Professional Removal
Complete lead abatement, including paint removal, should only be done by certified lead paint removal contractors. They specialize in techniques that minimize dangerous lead dust. It involves chemical paint stripping gels or scrape methods. The work area is sealed off, and occupants and pets must vacate. The abatement team should thoroughly clean the area using HEPA vacuums and wet cleaning methods. Only a professional lead abatement contractor has the proper equipment, training, and resources to remove old lead paint safely.
To wrap up
Lead paint exposure is a significant health hazard, especially for young children. But with proper testing, precautions, and the help of professional abatement contractors when needed, risks are minimized. If you live in an older home, identify potential lead paint hazards proactively. Then you can take steps to protect your family and safely manage the lead paint so you can continue living comfortably in your home.
Ready to paint over lead paint? Contact Link Solutions, the leading painting company in the Boston MetroWest area, and discover how our skilled painters can breathe new life into you. Don’t wait any longer; contact Link Solutions today to schedule your painting project and turn your vision into reality!
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