Why should I care about lead-based paint?
Next to asbestos, the idea of lead-based paint puts a chill in the heart of any home renovator. Ingestion of lead-based paint may cause severe learning disabilities, behavioral problems, seizures, and even death.
Who is affected?
Everyone. However, lead-based paint appears to mainly affect children age six and under. Adults may experience problems with pregnancy and neurological conditions. Elevated blood-lead levels have dropped dramatically since 1978. The number of children with elevated levels are now 310,000--down from 3 to 4 million. This is due mainly to aggressive education efforts from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), state, and local agencies.
Are all houses affected?
Yes. But houses built prior to 1978, when lead-based paint was outlawed, are at greater risk.
How does someone get lead poisoning?
From lead-based paint that no longer adheres to the surface on which it was originally painted. This means: chips, dust, flakes, and peels. If you scrape, torch, or sand lead-based paint, you run the risk of poisoning.
My house was built in 1975. How can I find out if it has lead-based paint?
Home kits are widely available, but the EPA indicates that these kits are often inaccurate. Yellow Pages contain sections for Lead Abatement companies.
Well, how do I work with lead-based paint?
- If you can avoid the area in the first place, that is the safest avenue.
- Wear a respirator (not a paper mask).
- Use a HEPA vacuum to clean up.
- Wear gloves, goggles, washable hats, paper coveralls.
- Take surfaces containing lead-based paint outside. If this is not possible, seal off non-work areas inside with plastic sheeting.