, Renovating? Learn About Lead Paint Hazards Before You Begin

If your home was built in or before 1978 it is highly likely that it contains lead-based paint. If not conducted properly, certain types of renovations can release lead from paint and dust into the air.

Lead is a highly toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around our homes. Lead may cause a range of health effects, from behavioral problems and learning disabilities, to seizures and death. Children 6 years old and under are most at risk, because their bodies are growing quickly.

Research suggests that the primary sources of lead exposure for most children are:

– deteriorating lead-based paint,
– lead contaminated dust, and
– lead contaminated residential soil.

Truth is, most people wouldn’t know that old peeling paint might potentially be harmful. Knowing this, the Federal government has taken a fairly aggressive approach in getting the word out to the public through education. Like mold, we believe it’s important for consumers to be informed about environmental dangers. This section provides resources and links to various sites addressing the dangers of lead paint and I encourage you to educate yourself by visiting those sites.

In poorly maintained houses, lead-based paint, which may be several layers down, flakes and peels off. Usually due to moisture problems, sometimes rubbing or impact causes paint failure. Doing work improperly can also cause alot of dust.

Lead-based paint chips and dust then mix with house dust and build up in window troughs and on floors. Children become endangered when lead in paint chips, dust and soil gets on their hands and toys which they may put in their mouths.

Lead poisoning is a serious disease particularly in young children. Lead can make children very sick and cause permanent brain and nerve damage. Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, mental retardation and stunted growth. It is an illness caused by environmental factors only. Children under six are most at risk. It is not contagious from child to child, but can be passed from a pregnant mother to her unborn baby through the bloodstream. Currently there is no treatment available that completely removes lead from the body.

But the good news is that lead poisoning is preventable by reducing your family’s exposure to lead. For more information on the hazards of lead and what you can do to protect yourself be sure to visit the Environmental Protection Agency web site. Additional resources for research are listed at the end of this section. If you have any questions or concerns about lead be sure to follow the links to those sites and contact them with any questions you may have.


The lead paint is deteriorating. As the paint breaks down, it releases paint chips and lead dust that can contaminate the home and be easily ingested by your children through hand to-mouth activity.

The lead paint is on friction or impact surfaces. (i.e. stairs, window sills) Impact to these surfaces can damage the paint and release lead.

The lead paint is on child-accessible surfaces that show evidence of teeth marks.(i.e. window sills, railings, stair edges)

Lead Paint is usually not a hazard if the paint:

Is in good condition
Is not on an impact or friction surfaces

All testing for, and identification of, lead hazards should be completed per EPA regulations.

You can test for lead in dishes, paint and other items around your home. Purchase a lead test kit at your local paint or home builders’ store or contact one of the companies listed at the end of this section.

These tests will only indicate if lead is present – not how much lead is in the product. The test is not entirely accurate.

Call the National Lead Information Center at 1(800) 424-LEAD (5323) for more information about lead poisoning and proper ways to remodel.

Sources of Lead In The Home Environment

Paint: Paint produced before 1955 is likely to contain high concentrations of lead particles. Paint produced before 1978 is also likely to contain dangerous levels of lead, but far less than that made before 1955.

Soil: Soil is likely to contain lead around older homes if some of the exterior paint layers are lead-based paints. Lead gets into the soil as the exterior paint deteriorates and flakes off or chalks. Sun and wind weather the painted surface and rain washes the lead chips and dust onto the surrounding soil

Dust: Lead contaminated dust is one of the primary sources of lead poisoning in children. The dust is created from deteriorating paint in older homes as paint chalks, peels and flakes. Children pick up dust on their fingers from floors, windows and other painted surfaces.

Water: Plumbing systems in older homes can contain lead soldered pipes or even lead piping. New brass faucets and fittings also contain some lead which can leach into the surrounding water. There are home test kits which can detect lead in water.

Food: Food and beverages in cans imported from other countries such as Mexico, Philippines and Indochina may contain lead soldered seams. The lead in the solder leaches out into the food or liquid which can poison small children. Cans with no side seams or with narrow seams and thin black/blue lines are lead free.

Pottery: Colorful glazes and clear varnishes on pottery, earthenware and other ceramics may contain lead, especially imported or handmade items made in Mexico, China and Italy.

Home Remedies: Various cultures use home remedies and medicines for different health reasons. Some of these home remedies contain lead and can make children very sick. Be sure to read www.epa.gov for more info on what to avoid.

Home remodeling and renovation projects can generate lead dust via sanding and other disturbances to lead-based paint.

This high volume dust can dramatically increase a child’s exposure to lead and can cause high levels of lead in their bodies.

One family reported that during renovation the family dog began to have seizures. Upon further examination the veterinarian found that the dog had been lead poisoned.

Lead-based paint can also pose a threat to workers by causing damage to their brains, and nervous and reproductive systems. Workers can protect themselves and their customers by practicing safe work habits which is addressed in the Lead-Based Pre-Renovation Regulation noted above.

So if you are doing extensive remodeling on an older home, it is best to obtain professional help. Call the State Lead-related Construction Hotline at 1 (800) 597-5323 for guidance.

California Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch
www.dhs.ca.gov/child lead

Lead-Safe Schools
ww.dhs.cahwnet.gov/child lead/htm/GENregs.html

California Lead Poisoning Hotline
(EPA branch)

tableware Information Line:

Occupational Lead Poisoning Prevention

State Food and Drug Branch Hotline:
To report foods with lead sold in the U.S.

State Lead-Related Construction
Information Line:


National Lead information Center www.epa.gov/lead/nlic.htm

Alliance to End Childhood Lead Poisoning www.aeclp.org

Consumer Product Safety Hotline www.aoa.gov/aoa//DIR/80.html

EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline www.epa.gov/safewater

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) www.hud.gov/offices/lead

The National Center for Lead-Safe Housing www.leadsafehousing.org

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency www.epa.gov/opptintr/lead/index

U.S.Center for Disease Control/ Prevention (CDC) www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/lead.htm

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) www.edf.org/pubs/Brochures/LeadInChina

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