Lead-based Paint as a Hazard During Remodeling

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What is lead-based paint?

Lead is a poison, most dangerous in the form of dust and fumes, that can be found in most homes built before 1978. Lead was added to paint prior to this time. Lead-based paint can be found in homes regardless of location, in apartments, condominiums, single family homes and both private and public housing, both inside and outside the home, and in soil around a home. The primary concern is the use of lead in paints and varnishes. Exposure to lead can be a problem to workers and occupants of a home during remodeling or renovating activities that involve any disturbance to lead-based paint.

Why was it used?

Lead was originally used in paint several reasons. It was used as pigment because it made colors more vibrant. Lead also preserved the paint in that it made the paint more weather resistant, resisted the growth of mold and mildew, and helped prevent corrosion of metal surfaces. Lead was also added to paint to make it dry faster. This was all previous to the realization that lead posed a health threat.

What are the associated health effects?

When in good condition, lead-based paint does not pose any health risks. A health risk is posed when the paint is peeling or cracking. Lead dust can form when lead-based paint is dry scraped, dry sanded, or heated. Dust also forms when painted surfaces bump or rub together. Lead chips and dust can get on surfaces and objects that people touch. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air when people vacuum, sweep, or walk through it. The problems associated with lead paint include the following:

In Children:

Damage to the brain and nervous system
Behavior and learning problems
Slowed growth
Hearing problems

In Adults:

Difficulties during pregnancy and other reproductive problems in both men and women
High blood pressure
Digestive problems
Nerve disorders
Memory and concentration problems
Muscle and joint pain

How do I know if lead paint was used in my home? How do I get rid of it?

Any home or multifamily housing building built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint. After 1940, paint manufacturers voluntarily began to reduce the amount of lead they added to their consumer paints. As a result, painted surfaces in homes built before 1940 are likely to have higher levels of lead than homes built between 1940 and 1978. If you are renting a home that was built pre-1978, your landlord is required by law to disclose the presence of lead paint to you. If you are buying a pre-1978 home, the seller is required by law to disclose this to you as well.

Peeling, chipping, chalking, or cracking lead-based paint is a hazard and needs immediate attention. Lead-based paint may also be a hazard when found on surfaces that get a lot of wear-and-tear, including windows and window sills, doors and door frames, stairs railings and banisters and porches and fences.

If you find paint chips, clean them immediately. Prior to remodeling or renovating you home, have the area tested for lead-based paint. In order to get rid of the lead paint permanently, hire a certified lead abatement contractor. Permanent removal methods include removing, sealing, or enclosing lead based paint with materials. Painting over the lead based paint will not solve the problem. Do not sand or scrape the paint because this will create dust and fumes which will pose a danger to you and your family. Once the paint removal is complete, you will be able to proceed with your renovations.

Disclosure of Lead Based Paint and Lead Based Paint Hazards

If you own a home or rental property built before 1978, Federal law requires you to disclose any known information about the presence lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards in the property before you rent or sell, and to warn about the hazards of lead. This Federal requirement was established in 1996 and applies to all pre-1978 housing. See the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Web site to obtain disclosure forms (one for lessors and one for sellers) that meet this federal requirement and a copy of the EPA/HUD/Consumer Product Safety Commission brochure entitled “Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home” that must be given to renters or home purchasers.

If you did not receive the disclosure information when you moved into your home, or when you changed your rental agreement, since 1996, you can complain by calling toll free 1-800-424-LEAD. (Persons with hearing or speech impediments may call this number via TTY through the toll-free Federal Information Relay Service at 1-800-877-8339.)

HUD’s Lead Safe Housing Rule helps protect young children from lead-based paint hazards in housing that is financially assisted by the federal government, or is being sold by the government. Specific requirements depend on the type and amount of financial ownership or assistance, whether the building was built before 1978 or before 1960, and whether the dwelling is rental or owner-occupied.

National Clearinghouse for Lead Safe Abatement

The National Clearinghouse for Lead Safe Abatement is a central point of access for contractors and lead abatement practitioners to secure a wide variety of discounted and donated lead abatement supplies – including risk insurance, abatement materials, and diagnostic equipment. The Clearinghouse is supported by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through a grant awarded last year to the Energy Programs Consortium (EPC).

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