The truth about lead exposure in your home

Buying an older home comes with charm, character and sometimes, needed renovations. Before you begin a home improvement project, keep your family safe and ensure that your home is free of any lead-based paint.

What is lead?

Lead is a naturally occurring metal in the earth’s crust that can be present in a variety of places in the environment including air, water, dust, soil, food and various consumer products. One of the most common sources of lead exposure is the paint right inside your home.

Does your home have lead-based paint?

If your home was built between 1960 and 1977, there is a 24% chance that your home contains lead-based paint. If it was constructed between 1940 and 1959, there’s a 69% chance that lead is present in your home and if your home was built before 1940, there is a 87% chance that you are at risk for lead exposure.

Although the federal government banned the use of paint containing lead in 1978, it is still on the walls of many older homes, often under new layers of paint.

If lead-based paint is chipping, peeling or deteriorating in any way, it can present serious health risks to you and your family. A renovation or repair can be hazardous when painted surfaces are disturbed or demolished, creating a toxic lead dust.

Because lead poisoning occurs by inhaling or ingesting, it is also a danger when lead paint exists on surfaces that children can get their mouths on such as window sills, doors and door frames, stairs, railings, banisters and porches.

Health risks

When lead builds up in the body, over months or years, lead poisoning can occur. Even small amounts of lead exposure can be dangerous and cause damage over time. Lead exposure can affect nearly every system in the body. At high levels, it can be fatal.

Lead-based paint in older homes is one of the most common causes of lead poisoning in children. Children under six years old are especially vulnerable as it can severely affect their mental and physical development.

Lead poisoning often occurs without obvious signs but it’s crucial to be aware of symptoms of lead poisoning in children and adults. At least 4 million households have children living in them that are being exposed to high levels of lead. Babies can also be exposed to lead while still in the womb. Newborns can be born prematurely, with a lower birth weight, or have slowed growth.

What can you do?

Determine if your family is at risk for lead poisoning by completing this checklist. Have a qualified professional do a paint inspection and risk assessment on your home if you are concerned about the presence of lead in your older home. Keep in mind that lead pipes, brass plumbing fixtures, and copper pipes soldered with lead can also be dangerous as it releases lead particles into tap water.

Renovation or not, it’s essential to know whether you or your family’s health is at risk.


Author: NARI

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