Lead-based paint may currently be prohibited by the Environmental Protection Agency, but this does not indicate that the material no longer exists among us. Because of its prevalent use prior to 1978, lead-based paint can still be found in residential, public, commercial, and industrial structures all over the U.S. If your building or home was built before 1978, your walls and surfaces should be tested for lead-based paint, especially if you plan on selling or remodeling your place. If you plan on selling or renting out your space, you have a legal obligation to inform the potential buyer or renter of any information you have about the lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards in your building. If you plan on renovating your space, potential exposure to the lead can occur.
Why is Lead-Based Paint a Safety Hazard?
Lead is considered a toxin that can hinder the development and functions of every organ in the body. Not only does it become ingested into the bloodstream, but some is deposited into the kidneys and brain and stored in the bones as well. Lead does not leave the body after a short period of time. As the body absorbs nutrients and grows, lead transfers in and out of the bones, staying in your body for as long as twenty years. Unfortunately, the health effects of lead can be extremely dangerous and irreversible. Some health factors that indicate lead poisoning can be found below.
Health Risks to Children
- impaired growth
- impaired short-term memory
- hearing loss
- behavior problems (such as ADHD)
- damage to the brain and nervous system
- kidney damage
- slowed growth
- poor muscle coordination
- bone marrow problems
Health Risks to Adults
- respiratory problems
- digestive problems
- nerve disorders
- fertility problems in both men and women
- memory loss
- difficulties during pregnancy
- muscle and joint pain
Health Risks to Pregnancy
- premature birth
- birth defects
- low birth weight
- learning disabilities
- still birth
How to Test for Lead-Based Paint
Although home testing kits do exist, the EPA strongly suggests that a certified lead inspector or a certified lead risk assessor performs the lead test. This is not only for accuracy and detail, but safety as well. There are three testing methods that are utilized to determine if and where lead-based paint is present in your building.
The first test is the lead-based paint inspection which identifies if lead exists. The inspector will take samples of all painted and wall-papered surfaces in your building. The samples will then be tested by either portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) or will be sent to laboratory recognized by the EPA’s National Lead Laboratory Accreditation Program. Since the report from either test does not indicate the condition of the paint or whether it poses a health risk, you may want to consider utilizing the next testing method which is a risk assessment.
The risk assessment method locates failing paint in your building and evaluates the degree and cause of the deterioration. The downfall of this method is that painted surfaces in good condition are not tested; therefore a negative report does not always mean lead-based paint does not exist. This is why some building owners decide to have both a paint inspection and risk assessment performed to their property.
Lastly is the hazard screen. This test is similar to a risk assessment, but much simpler. An assessor inspects failing paint in the area and collects two samples of dust, one from the floor and one from the window. This kind of test is used to find the probability of there being a risk present. If a risk is present, the test will recommend you to perform a risk assessment.
Maintaining Lead-Based Areas
Just because lead exists, does not mean it has to be removed. Sometimes maintaining surfaces with lead-based paint is safer than repainting it. There are some precautions you can take to make sure that the lead does not affect you or people in the surrounding area. First, make sure that the lead-based area is not a place where a lot of wear-and-tear occurs. Second, make sure the surface is clean at all times. This means wiping away any dust or peeling paint that may be in the area. Frequently check for any chipping, chalking, or cracking in the surface. Once these start to occur, start to consider removing the paint. Lastly, make sure to address any water damage that may occur to the area. Water can deteriorate the substrate, ultimately causing exposure of lead to the surrounding area.
Hiring a Lead-Safe Certified Contractor
The EPA has recently enforced a new ruling, RRP (Renovate, Repair and Painting), which states that painting firms must be certified and each worker must be trained for lead-safe work practices. In conjunction with the Renovation, Repair and Painting Program, (RRP) the EPA has provided a new set of comprehensive guidelines for contractors and property managers. These rules apply to interior and exterior renovation projects of houses, apartments, and child-occupied facilities such as schools and daycares that were built prior to 1978 and may potentially contain lead-based paint. Contractors that are working on these projects must provide the building owners with a new hazard pamphlet and place lead hazard signs around the property. They must also practice dust containment measures and follow waste disposal procedures.
EPA. (n.d.). Retrieved January 15, 2015, from http://www2.epa.gov/lead/learn-about-lead#found
Testing for and Removing Lead Paint. (n.d.). Retrieved January 15, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/women/home-health-and-safety-9/lead-paint?page=4
Lead Based Paint Removal - Paint Safety. (n.d.). Retrieved January 15, 2015, from http://www.resene.co.nz/comn/safety/lead.htm