Home Renovation and Lead Paint

The adverse impact of Lead was not taken seriously for a long time till regulatory agencies like the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) started meticulous research on this topic in the early 70s. Through systematic data collection and report publication, the regulatory bodies like EPA and CDC succeeded in legislating stringent lead-use related policies in 1978. Lead-based paint was finally banned in the US in 1978. As a result of these concerted efforts, the lead-use related laws and policies apply to all constructions built before 1978.

According to EPA guidelines, any home built before 1978 must undergo rigorous home renovation practices to ensure that all the adults, especially pregnant women, and children are safe during home painting jobs. Here is a starter guide on what you should know about lead-based paint. Typically during a home renovation, scraping and of old paint can cause serious health hazards for adults, children, and pets due to Lead paint exposure.  Lead paint attacks have been known to cause damage to the nervous system and acute learning disabilities. EPA research states that prolonged Lead exposure can pose a risk of Lead poisoning for the affected people.

How to Find Out If Your Home Is Lead Contaminated

Authoritative websites like the US EPA or CDC carry a wealth of information on Lead and Lead poisoning due to prolonged Lead exposure.  If you happen to live in an old home, a good way to find out whether your home is Lead-contaminated is to determine the date of construction as the percentage of Lead used in home construction gradually tapered down over the decades.  Here is a quick list to figure out the condition of your home:

  • Homes built between 1920 and 1949 have an 80% probability of Lead contamination
  • Homes constructed in the 1950s have a 60% likelihood of Lead contamination
  • Homes constructed in the 1960s have a 25% chance of Lead contamination
  • Homes built between 1970 and 1978 have a 10% likelihood of Lead contamination

According to EPA’s Learn about Lead, the Lead dust particles generated during a home renovation or home painting work, carry the maximum risk of Lead poisoning through the air. Whenever in doubt, get your home tested for Lead contamination.

Homes that may have been repainted with lead-free paints recently may still have Lead paints under the outer layers. The homeowners will have to pay close attention if the new paints start cracking or chipping, or becoming damp. Those are the times when Lead particles or Lead dust can start causing health problems. A practical method to minimize the risk of Lead contamination is to keep the new paint in good shape and dust free.

EPA: RRP Program mandates that firms who provide repair, renovation, or painting services to homes with lead-based paint acquire certification from EPA to practice lead-safe procedures. If you have trouble understanding the requirements of the RRP Program from the EPA link, then review this DW Magazine article to understand the program.

What Do Homeowners Need to Know about Home Painting?

Repeated exposure to Lead can cause serious health hazards. Even small dust particles or paint chips floating in the air can Lead to blood pressure, nervous system failure, or brain damage in children. A home that is suspected of having Lead paint or other Lead materials must be renovated or repaired by certified Lead experts who have the right know-how and tools to handle such jobs.

The Government of Australia Department of Environment and Energy offers many informative publications on Lead contamination and its impact on home renovation. A small booklet, known as the Six Step Guide to Painting Your Home, provides updated information on Lead poisoning and associated health risks. Anyone planning a home renovation can benefit from the information provided in this tiny booklet. This publication was first published in 1995, and the fifth edition just got released this year. The Australian Government Department of the Environment has shared this brochure on their website with a clear disclaimer that all users of this publication ought to seek expert advice before making any decisions in their individual cases.

How Much Lead Does Domestic Paint Have?

Alternative to Lead Paint, a publication provided by IPEN, reports that lead-free pigments, driers, and other agents have been used by leading paint manufacturers for decades now. By avoiding all Lead pigments, driers, and other Lead compounds, a paint manufacturer can guarantee a paint product that has Lead content below 90 ppm — permissible for any global market.

Lead in House Paint reports that the amount of Lead used in domestic paint has gone down from 50% before 1965, to 1% in 1965. In 1992, this amount was further reduced to 0.25%, and finally to 0.1% in 1997. Other types of paints where Lead was used were:

    • Lead carbonate used as white pigment in most interior and exterior house paints
    • Pink primer, which is a mixture of red and white Lead pigments was used in undercoats
    • A red-lead primer was used on window sills and exposed timber walls.

How Lead Exposure Affects Children during Home Renovation

Continued exposure to Lead dust or old paint chips can impair little children and unborn children in their mother’s wombs. Children under the age of 6 are particularly susceptible to Lead poisoning and Lead contamination in the blood stream. Lead particles can remain in bones and tissues for a long time. In the case of any accidental Lead poisoning through inhalation or eating of Lead particles, small children should be immediately tested for blood-lead levels in an accredited laboratory. Readers of this article should review this CDC publication, Lead Level in Children: Fact Sheet

Earlier, blood Lead levels less than 10 micrograms per deciliter of Lead remained unreported. Now, with newer rules, lower blood Lead levels are reported, so that doctors, parents and other public health officials take remedial action to reduce the future risk of Lead exposure. Mayo Clinic publications, peer-reviewed by a panel of medical experts, provide valuable advice and guidance on a broad range of medical topics. In lead poisoning basics, Mayo Clinic’s experts offer the following tips on protecting children from possible Lead poisoning at home:

  • Children should thoroughly wash their hands and toys after playing outdoors, before meal times, and before going to bed.
  • The furniture, window sills, and banisters or rails should be kept clean and dust free with a wet mop.
  • In a home has old pipes, then the cold water should be kept running for a minute before use. Tap water should be avoided for cooking.
  • Children should not play on the soil. Instead, the ground should be covered with grass, mulch, or a sandbox.
  • Proper, calcium and iron-enriched nutrition may lower the risks of Lead absorption in the blood.

According to CDC’s Lead Level in Children: Fact Sheet, the children below five years of age are particularly vulnerable to Lead exposure in their homes as they usually put their hands in their mouths, have a tendency to absorb more Lead than adults, and have a highly fragile sensitive brain.

How Lead Exposure Affects Pregnant Women during Home Painting

A pregnant woman residing in a home undergoing repair or renovation is very susceptible to causing damage to the unborn child in her womb. Lead can quickly pass from the mother’s bloodstream to the fetus’s bloodstream through the placenta. The reported problems include a low weight of the new baby, premature birth, or a miscarriage. Breastfeeding mothers must also take precaution during home renovation as Lead can pass to the baby’s blood stream through breast milk. When a newborn baby is exposed to Lead, he or she may suffer from serious disabilities. The symptoms of Lead exposure in a pregnant woman may include fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, loss of appetite, or even behavioral issues.

Preventive Measures to be Adopted by Homeowners

The article titled Evaluating and Eliminating Lead Based Paint Hazards from EPA discusses “Lead abatement,” which is an activity developed to detect and remove lead-based paint hazards. The Lead abatement procedure involves the use of specialized skills that residential contractors are not familiar with. The firms who conduct abatement projects have to engage certified professionals.

Healthline talks about the tell-tale signs of repeated Lead exposure in adults, which may include abdominal pain or cramps, headaches, irritable or unusual behavior, and sleeping disorders. In children, the same problem may surface as fatigue, memory loss, or sudden loss of appetite, and developmental problems. WebMD, an authoritative resource on preventive cure and safe health, discusses probable precautionary measures to protect anyone, especially little children, and pregnant women at home from Lead poisoning.

As Lead exposure poses serious health risks, US EPA has mandated stringent guidelines for repairing or renovating homes built before 1978. EPA requires that firms and contractors working with Lead-based paints need special certifications to provide such paint services. Typically during a home renovation, scraping off the old paint can cause Lead dust or particles to float in the air – leading to health hazards for adults, children, and pets. EPA research states that prolonged Lead exposure poses a risk of Lead poisoning. The harsh policies have been implemented to ensure the health and safety of all adults and children, especially the pregnant women and children, and also the pets.