For many homeowners, lead in the home is a significant cause for concern. For nearly half a century, more and more concerns have emerged regarding the effects of lead on physical and mental health. This is especially true for children who have an increased risk of lead exposure.
Over the years, Congress has passed several laws regarding lead, which serve to address a myriad of problems caused by this poisonous metal. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), these laws address:
- Lead in paint
- Lead in dust and soil
- Lead in the air
- Lead in water
- Disposal of lead wastes
The EPA administers a wide variety of acts passed by Congress to help control and reduce the risks associated with lead. These laws are continuously being updated and re-assessed to combat the harmful effects of lead exposure.
In June of 2019, new and more restrictive standards were put into place to address lead in dust on floors and window sills in order to reduce the potential harm to children. In a press release from the EPA, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler stated:
“Today’s final rule is the first time in nearly two decades EPA is issuing a stronger, more protective standard for lead dust in homes and child care facilities across the country.”
Homes Built Pre-1978
The crackdown on lead isn’t new. In 1978 lead paint was banned from all use in homes or condominiums. While this was a step toward progress, it didn’t seek to address the countless structures that were plagued with lead paint at that time.
Lead paint becomes problematic when it is disturbed, which can occur from weathering or wear. Homes built before 1978 may have stood the test of time, but their lead paint has not.
Homeowners that live in homes built before lead was banned need to be especially vigilant. It’s certainly possible to identify some problem areas without professional help, but it’s not necessarily recommended. Without the proper safety gear, training, and lead knowledge — a homeowner could end up doing more harm than good by further disturbing an area. A lead paint inspection can help identify problem areas to prevent problems down the road.
However, here are some quick tips for recognizing where lead may be found in a home.
Identifying Lead in the Home
Lead paint is the main culprit of many lead exposure problems. Lead paint can cover a range of surfaces, and older homes face the biggest obstacles when it comes to safety concerns.
Certain areas where lead is present are far easier to disturb and therefore present a far great risk.
Areas that receive a lot of traffic or movement are the main culprit. Handrails or banisters are constantly being touched, grabbed, or bumped into. Sometimes, these surfaces are covered in lead paint, which can be especially dangerous. Stairs are another problem area due to their high traffic levels. Windows are another potential area for contamination concerns as they are opened and closed continuously. Both window sills and frames can contain lead paint — and chipping or peeling can occur, leading to contamination issues.
Outdoor living areas such as porches are also points of interest. Weathering and moisture can cause significant damage to lead paint, which can lead to lead in soil. This can be particularly troubling for families where small children may play outside and inadvertently ingest lead paint chips or dust.
What to Expect from a Lead Paint Inspection
While many homeowners may try to conduct their own DIY lead inspection, it’s often more effective to hire a professional. The EPA sets strict rules, regulations, and guidelines that inspectors must follow. They also require lead inspector certifications that ensure safe practices and thoroughness from hired professionals that are conducting inspection work. While lead risk assessor certifications are required for risk assessment jobs.
Contractors that work in homes or properties with lead-containing materials must have EPA trained employees. Failing to do so can result in severe fines and penalties.
There are essentially two models for lead inspections: lead-based paint inspection and lead risk assessments.
Lead-Based Paint Inspection
A lead inspection simply checks surfaces both inside and outside of a home to identify where toxic lead paint is located. Inspectors will diligently examine problem areas along with areas that may be difficult to spot.
While lead paint is harmful, it’s only dangerous when it’s disturbed or damaged. Therefore, lead paint that is in good condition and doesn’t run the risk of being disturbed in the future can be left alone.
Lead Paint Risk Assessment
A lead paint risk assessment, on the other hand, seeks to inform homeowners about lead paint hazards on the premises. These assessments aim to seek out lead levels and how serious the issue is. Individuals with proper training will conduct on-site investigations to seek the existence, severity, nature, and location of lead paint hazards.
Lead paint risk assessments also include action plans to manage lead paint hazards for future safety.
Why Are Lead Inspections So Important?
Lead paint can lead to lead poisioning, which can be severely detrimental to certain populations like children. Children are far more likely to be the victims of lead exposure and poisoning due to numerous factors. Hand to mouth behavior, how quickly lead absorbs into their bloodstream, and higher respiratory functioning can all lead to increased chances of lead exposure in children.
The Mayo Clinic has identified several symptoms and risk factors that children may face when exposed to lead paint. This list contains, but is not limited to:
- Developmental delay
- Learning difficulties
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Sluggishness and fatigue
- Abdominal pain
- Hearing loss
It’s important for homeowners to take the right precautions and steps toward keeping their household safe. Lead paint inspections and assessments can help identify problem areas and create plans for future safety.