How to Successfully Deal with Lead-Based Paint in Your Home

An unsettling fact by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that if your home was built before 1978, there’s a chance you may have dangerous lead-based paint within your home. Even though lead has been banned in paints, toys, and household furniture in the US since 1978, lead-based paint may still be present on the woodwork and walls in older apartments and homes. If your home falls in the category of having been built in 1959 or earlier, the potential hazard of having lead-based paint hidden under layers of newer paint increases to 78% on average, but is 87% if your home was built before 1940. It’s important to note that lead-based paint can also be found in the soil around your home, not just from the paint source itself.

Why did paint contain lead?

When lead was added to paint, the paint became highly resistant to moisture, dried quicker, and offered increased durability. Lead in paint prior to the 1970s was most frequently used as a pigment in colors known as chrome yellow, red lead, or white lead. 

Why is lead dangerous?

While the EPA is quick to say that lead paint in good condition generally doesn’t impose a severe risk, lead is also the leading cause of poisoning in America. Lead is a naturally occurring environmental chemical that’s poisonous should it get inside your body. Kids ages six and under are the most likely to be harmed by lead, according to the King County Public Health in Seattle. Why? Because they’re still in developmental stages where the body confuses lead with essential nutrients such as calcium. Since kids are growing so fast, their bodies will use up whatever resources they can find, including lead, and any detection of such can cause permanent damage to their health. If you’ve got young children in your old home, you should consider testing for lead-based paint.

Deteriorating lead-based paint needs immediate attention

If you have any painted areas in your home where there’s chalking, chipping, cracking, damage, and/or peeling, these are lead-based paint poisoning hazards that need to be dealt with immediately. This frequently occurs around doors/frames, porches, stairs, and windows/sills. What can you do? The EPA recommends hiring a professional to help keep your family secure from lead-based paint poisoning. They’ll send test samples off to an EPA-approved lab and/or will test on-site using portable X-ray fluorescence imaging. Not sure who to call? Consult our DomiDocs list of trusted nationwide contractors to locate an EPA- or state-certified lead specialist who can conduct a paint inspection and/or a risk assessment concerning your family’s health.

Mitigate lead exposure

Lead also occurs in household dust originating from lead-based paint or lead-contaminated soil around your home. If you’ve recently heated, sanded, or scraped a lead-based painted area, the lead dust can easily settle and re-enter the air whenever your home is mopped, swept, or even by just walking through it. Before the certified lead professional arrives, there are a few things you can do to minimize your family’s exposure to lead in your home according to the EPA:

  • clean air ducts frequently
  • if you find an area with damaged or peeling paint, don’t sand it as it will generate lead-filled dust
  • frequently wet mop to reduce the possibility of creating chips and to help trap dust
  • keep kids away from painted surfaces where chips may occur
  • remove your shoes before entering your home 
  • use doormats to remove dust from shoes both inside and outside at entryways
  • wash toys, stuffed animals, and regularly clean play areas
  • wash your hands and your kid’s hands often, especially before they eat or sleep

Even though there are DIY lead testing kits available, the EPA doesn’t recommend them as they’re not accurate and could unnecessarily expose you to lead as you conduct the test yourself.

Permanent lead removal in your home

According to expert lead abatement contractors, there are only three ways you can deal with lead-based paint as a homeowner, you can:

  • encapsulate – pros will brush or roll on a specialized coating which creates a watertight seal; it’s the easiest and least expensive method but know that the layer may wear off in high traffic areas including doors and windows
  • enclose – contractors will enclose the affected areas by covering them up with new ones such as by installing new drywall and/or changing out the windows; this can be a timely and costly alternative
  • removal – approved methods for lead-based paint removal include wet hand scraping using a remover and a low-temp heat gun; wet sanding with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtered vacuum; and wire brushing. Note: abrasive power washing without trapping the water and using an open flame are forbidden ways to remove lead. 

HomeAdvisor says that no matter which option you decide to go with, it’ll cost you between $8 and $15 per square foot with total project costs averaging $10,000, but they can also hit upwards of $30,000 to remove lead-based paint from an entire home.

Symptoms of lead poisoning in children

According to the Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of lead poisoning by ingestion or inhalation in kids may include:

  • abdominal pain
  • bone marrow disease
  • brain damage
  • constipation
  • developmental delay
  • eating non-food items like paint chips (pica eating disorder)
  • hearing loss
  • irritability
  • kidney damage
  • learning difficulties including attention deficit disorder
  • loss of appetite
  • nerve damage
  • seizures
  • sluggishness and fatigue
  • vomiting
  • weight loss

High levels of lead in children can cause unconsciousness and even death. They also noted babies exposed to lead before birth may be born prematurely, have lower birth weight, and/or have slowed development.

Symptoms of lead poisoning in adults

Even though kids are the primary risk for lead poisoning, it can also occur in adults where signs and symptoms may include:

  • abdominal pain
  • anemia
  • difficulties with memory or concentration
  • headache
  • high blood pressure
  • joint and muscle pain
  • miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth in pregnant women
  • mood disorders
  • reduced sperm count and abnormal sperm

Lead poisoning treatment

Regular blood testing for kids will become the norm if lead poisoning is suspected as there’s no safe level for humans. The Mayo Clinic states that removing the source of contamination is the first step in the lead poisoning treatment process. However, it’s entirely possible you won’t be able to do so especially if your home has lead-based paint throughout. The Mayo Clinic recommends sealing the lead-based paint instead of trying to remove it as this can cause even more exposure through the resulting dust and debris. Severe cases of lead poisoning may require chelation therapy to remove lead from the body.

Home management is made easy with DomiDocs as we’re committed to making your homeownership journey the best it can be. Our platform allows you the functionality to maintain, store, and track your property digitally while providing tips and recommendations such as these to enable you to make informed homeowner decisions. Besides keeping your family safe from the effects of lead-based paint, you can also protect your home from one of the fastest-growing crimes in America, title and deed fraud, with DomiDoc’s HomeLock™, the only 24/7/365 monitoring available. 

Author – Connie Motz