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Lead Based Paint


All homes built prior to 1978 require a Disclosure of Information and Acknowledgement for Lead-Based Paint and/or Lead-Based Paint Hazards signed by the Seller and Buyer. Buyers will have up to 10 days to check for lead hazards.

Many houses and apartments built before 1978 have paint that contains lead (called lead-based paint). Lead from paint, chips, and dust can pose serious health hazards if not taken care of properly.

Since 1996, federal law requires that individuals receive certain information before renting, buying, or renovating pre-1978 housing.

The following information about lead-based paint is very important if you have or are considering to purchase a home built prior to 1978:

People can get lead in their body if they:

  • Put their hands or other objects covered with lead dust in their mouths.
  • Eat paint chips or soil that contains lead.
  • Breathe in lead dust (especially during renovations that disturb painted surfaces)

Lead is even more dangerous to children than adults because:
  • Babies and young children often put their hands and other objects in their mouths. These objects can have lead dust on them.
  • Children's growing bodies absorb more lead.
  • Children's brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.

Lead's Effects
If not detected early, children with high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from:
  • Damage to the brain and nervous system
  • Behavior and learning problems (such as hyperactivity)
  • Slowed growth
  • Hearing problems
  • Headaches

Lead is also harmful to adults. Adults can suffer from:
  • Difficulties during pregnancy
  • Other reproductive problems (in both men and women)
  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive problems
  • Nerve disorders
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Muscle and join pain


Checking Your Family For Lead

A simple blood test can detect high levels of lead. Blood test are important for:

  • Children who are 6 months to 1 year old (6 months if you live in an older home with cracking or peeling paint).
  • Family member that you think might have high levels of lead.

If your child is older than 1 year, talk to your doctor about whether your child needs testing.

Your doctor of health center can do blood tests. They are inexpensive and sometimes free. Your doctor will explain what the test results mean. Treatment can range from changes in your diet to medication or a hospital stay.


Where Lead-Based Paint Is Found

Many homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint. The federal government banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978. Some states stopped its use even earlier. Lead can be found:

  • In homes in the city, country, or suburbs
  • In apartments, single-family homes, and both private and public housing.
  • Inside and outside of the house.
  • In soil around a home. (Soil can pick up lead from exterior paint, or other sources such as past use of leaded gas in cars.)


Where Lead Is Likely To Be A Hazard

Lead-based paint that is in good condition is usually not a hazard.

Peeling, chipping, chalking, or cracking lead-based paint is a hazard and needs immediate attention.

Lead-based paint may also be a hazard when found on surfaces that children can chew or that get a lot of wear-and tear. These areas include:

  • Windows and window sills.
  • Doors and door frames.
  • Stairs, railings, and banisters.
  • Porches and fences.

Lead dust can form when lead-based paint is dry scraped, dry sanded, or heated. Dust also forms when painted surfaces bump or rub together. Lead chips and dust can get on surfaces and objects that people touch. Settled lead dust can reenter the air when people vacuums, sweep, or walk through it.

Lead in soil can be a hazard when children play in bare soil or when people bring soil into the house on their shoes. Call your state agency to find out about soil testing for lead.


Checking Your Home For Lead Hazards

You can get your home checked for lead hazards in one of two ways, or both:

  • A paint inspection tells you the lead content of every painted surface in your home. I t won't tell you whether the paint is a hazard or how you should deal with it.
  • A risk assessment tells you if there are any sources o f serious lead exposure (such as peeling paint an lead dust). It also tells you what actions to take to address these hazards.

Have qualified professionals do the work. The federal government is writing standards for inspectors and risk assessors. Some states might already have standards in place. Call your state agency for help with locating qualified professionals in your area.

Trained professionals use a range of methods when checking your home, including:

  • Visual inspection of paint condition and location.
  • Lab tests of paint samples.
  • Surface dust tests.
  • A portable x-ray fluorescent machine.
Home test kits for lead are available, but recent studies suggest that they are not always accurate. Consumers should not rely on these test before doing renovation or to assure safety.


What You Can Do Now To Protect Your Family

If you suspect that your house has lead hazards, you can take some immediate steps to reduce your family's risk:

  • If you rent, notify your landlord of peeling or chipping paint.
  • Clean up paint chips immediately.
  • Clean floors, windows frames, window sills, and other surfaces weekly. Use a mop or sponge with warm water and a general all-purpose cleaner or a cleaner made especially for lead. Remember: NEVER MIX ammonia and bleach products together since they can form a dangerous gas.
  • Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads after cleaning dirty or dusty areas.
  • Wash children's hands often, especially before they eat and before nap time and bed time.
  • Keep play areas clean. Wash bottles, pacifiers, toys, and stuffed animals regularly.
  • Keep children from chewing window sills or other painted surfaces.
  • Clean or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from soil.
  • Make sure children eat nutritious, low-fat meals high in iron and calcium, such as spinach and low-fat dairy products. Children with good diets absorb less lead.


How To Significantly Reduce Lead Hazards

In addition to day-to-day cleaning and good nutrition:

  • You can temporarily reduce lead hazards by taking actions such as repairing damaged painted surfaces and planting grass to cover soil with high lead levels. These actions (call "interim controls") are not permanent solution and will need ongoing attention.

  • To permanently remove lead hazards, you must hire a lead "abatement" contractor. Abatement (or permanent hazard elimination) methods include removing, dealing, or enclosing lead-based paint with special materials. Just paint over the hazard with regular paint is not enough.

Always hire a person with special training for correcting lead problems - someone who knows how to do this work safely and has the proper equipment to clean up thoroughly. If possible, hire a certified lead abatement contractor. Certified contractors will employ qualified workers and follow strict safety rules as set by their state or by the federal government.

Call you state agency for help with location qualified contractors in your area and to see if financial assistance is available.


Remodeling or Renovating a Home With Lead-Based Paint

Take precautions before you begin remodeling or renovations that disturb painted surfaces (such as scraping off paint or tearing out walls):

  • Have the area tested for lead-based paint.
  • Do not use a dry scraper, belt-sander, propane torch, or heat gun to remove lead-based paint. These actions create large amounts of lead dust and fumes. Lead dust can remain in your home long after the work is done.
  • Temporarily move your family (especially children and pregnant women) out of the apartment or house until the work is done and the area is properly cleaned. If you can't move your family, at least completely seal off the work area.
  • Follow other safety measures to reduce lead hazards. You can find out about other safety measures by calling 1-800-424-LEAD. Ask for the brochure "Reducing Lead Hazards When Remodeling Your Home." This brochure explains what to do before, during, and after renovations.

If you have already completed renovations or remodeling that could have released lead-based paint or dust, get your young children tested and follow the steps outlines earlier.


For More Information

The National Lead Information Center
Call 1-800-LEAD-FYI to learn how to protect children from lead poisoning.
For other information on lead hazards, call the center's clearinghouse at 100-42 LEAD. For the hearing impaired, call TDD 1-800-526-5456.

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