Lead paint: What you need to know about this hazard

When it’s exposed or chipping, lead paint can pose serious health and developmental risks, especially for children seven years old and younger. It can also affect your pets!


We talked about some of those risks in last week’s blog. This week we’re going to touch on some of the legal requirements and outline some of your options for safe identification and/or removal of lead-based paint.

Determining if you have lead paint

If your home was painted during or before 1978, it is possible you have some surfaces covered by lead-based paint. If someone stored paint for several years after 1978 before painting, the possibility also exists. There are several ways to test for the presence of lead in paint


Finding surfaces containing lead doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to be removed, as long as they are in good condition and kept well painted.


However, if you have small children that might chew, lick or pick at painted surfaces, it’s critical to determine which surfaces contain lead and therefore need to be carefully monitored or removed. It’s especially easy for children to get their mouths on windows, windowsills, doors, doorframes, stairs, railings, banisters, porches and fences.


So, if the paint is cracking and peeling, or if you plan to remodel and disturb the affected paint surfaces, keep reading, you’ll want to deal with it very carefully.


So where do you get this tester?

Inexpensive home test kits are available at some home-improvement stores. They will at least give you an idea of which surfaces to be wary of, although most don’t indicate what percentage of lead is in the paint.


Another way to test for the presence of lead-based paint is to contact a business that specializes in environmental risk assessments. Some businesses have a device known as a XRF which can be held to the wall and will tell you if lead paint exists in any layer of paint present.


A third way is to send a sample chip out to be analyzed by an environmental lab. If you intend on sending samples off to a lab be sure to get a good sample of all layers of paint down to the substrate. If you want to know the exact content of lead the sample must be a known size (for example, two by two inches.).


What to do to reduce the risks

If you think your home may have lead hazards, you can take steps to reduce your family’s risks:

· If you rent, notify your landlord of peeling or chipped paint.

· Clean up paint chips immediately.

· Clean floors, window frames, windowsills and other surfaces at least weekly. Use a mop or sponge with warm water and an all-purpose cleaner.

· Thoroughly and often, 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 bedtime.

· Keep play areas clean. Wash bottles pacifiers, toys and stuffed animals regularly.

· Keep children from chewing windowsills 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. Children with good diets absorb less lead.


Removing lead-based paint

Removing lead-based paint improperly can increase the danger to your family. You may want to leave it to the professionals.


However, if you want to do it yourself, we offer the following tips: Make sure to isolate the room in question. Use a HEPA filtered respirator. They are available at safety stores. Use a pair of coveralls you can throw away. Also, don’t use a regular vacuum or shop-vac to pick up the dust. Some of them can send up to 50 percent of the dust back into the air! Instead make sure the vacuum has a HEPA filter.


If you use your common sense, you can get through this.


How to remodel a home containing lead-based paint

If you have a house full of lead-based paint and want to remove it, you should call in the experts. If you’re only doing a remodeling project that cuts into a few walls containing lead-based paint, you or your contractor can tackle it yourself, according to the information specialists at the other end of the lead paint hotline.


Take precautions before you or your contractor begin renovations that disturb painted surfaces – such as tearing out walls or scraping off paint.

· Either test yourself or have the area tested for lead-based paint.

· Do not use a belt sander, propane torch, heat gun, dry scraper or dry sandpaper 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, pregnant women and pets – out of the home 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 information may be harder to absorb than the lead in the paint but it’s critical to handle this issue properly, especially if you think about the risks involved to your family. If you have any questions, feel free to call us here at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor County.


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