New Homeowner’s Guide to Lead-Based Paint

Homes and child-occupied facilities built prior to 1978 have a higher potential for lead-based paint contamination. Homeowners must be aware of the risks associated with lead-based paint when purchasing an older home and take the appropriate steps to mitigate the risk with help from EPA-certified lead renovation teams.

Lead poisoning can cause cognitive and behavioral changes, fertility issues, and an array of additional lifelong afflictions, so it’s critical to eliminate lead-contaminated materials quickly to make your new home safer.

Dangers of Lead in Older Homes

For homes built before 1978, the risk of lead exposure is much higher. In the past, there was far less public concern surrounding lead-based paint. However, once the US government got a better understanding of how harmful lead can truly be to human health, they blocked its use in the construction of residential homes and child-occupied buildings such as daycare facilities using federal legislation.

When lead paint cracks or peels, it leaves behind pieces of dust or larger chunks of paint. Lead poisoning occurs when these loose lead particles are ingested or inhaled. Unfortunately, children are more susceptible to lead poisoning because they’re more likely to lick things or put things in their mouths, especially when left unsupervised. However, lead poisoning can still have serious health impacts on adults as well.

Symptoms of Lead Poisoning

The troubling thing about lead poisoning is that the symptoms don’t always show up right away. You or your child could be living with lead poisoning and not even know it unless some of the more noticeable health impacts arise. Common signs of lead poisoning in children include:

  • Developmental delays
  • Learning disabilities
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Hearing loss
  • Seizures

In adults, lead poisoning can cause new problems or exacerbate existing conditions. Examples of lead poisoning symptoms in adults include:

  • Memory loss
  • Concentration issues
  • Mood disorders
  • High blood pressure
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Fertility issues

The most significant area of concern for adults is fertility. Lead poisoning can be passed to infants in utero and cause lifelong health issues for your child. Both men and women can be affected by the fertility issues associated with lead poisoning, including low sperm count, miscarriage, and trouble conceiving.

When moving into your new home, the last thing you want is to worry about whether or not your children (both current and future) are protected from lead poisoning. That’s why you need to hire a reliable lead-certified contractor to complete any renovations and make your new home safe for dwelling.

Safe Residential Lead Removal

When renovating your home or removing areas affected by lead-based paints, it’s important to work in compliance with lead-safe practices. The best way to ensure this is by hiring a contractor certified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

EPA certifications can be acquired after individuals participate in professional lead paint certified training programs. Programs are typically offered either in person or online and provide comprehensive education on the best lead-safe work practices to protect workers and residents and adhere to the EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule.

The EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule

Since more and more scientists pushed for the ban of lead-based paint in construction and manufacturing in the 70s, the United States government has been under intense pressure to pass legislation regarding lead contamination in residential and commercial properties. Thus, the EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule was passed.

The RRP Rule provides guidelines for lead-safe construction practices to protect both homeowners and workers. The RRP Rule outlines specific cleaning protocols, disposal practices, and lead dust-elimination strategies to help create a safer work environment while lead-based paint is eliminated. You can learn more about the EPA’s RRP Rule right here.

EPA Lead Paint Certifications

Construction professionals can obtain several unique certifications, specifying the exact kind of lead-safe work they specialize in, including:

  • Lead renovator
  • Lead abatement supervisor
  • Lead abatement worker
  • Lead dust sampling technician
  • Lead risk assessor
  • Lead inspector

EPA lead paint certifications are good for five years. After the certificate expires, construction professionals can participate in professional lead renovator refresher courses to update their accreditation.

Failing to work with an EPA-certified lead paint renovator can result in costly fines and unsafe working or living conditions. Certified contractors utilize lead-safe practices to ensure both residents and workers are protected from lead dust exposure during and after the construction process.

Identifying Lead Contamination In Your Home

If you’re moving into a home built before 1978, the first thing you’ll want to do is identify home lead contamination. Lead-based paint is often present on the surfaces of household items such as doors, windows, railings, porches, baseboards, trim, and more. Make sure your home is safe for occupancy by testing for lead contamination.

Testing for Lead

Although at-home test kits and water sampling are acceptable methods to test for lead-based paint contamination, the best way to be absolutely certain about your exact lead exposure levels is to hire an EPA-certified professional. There are three reliable routes you can take to test for lead:

  • Dust Samples – If your home is contaminated with lead, the evidence will be apparent in the dust. EPA-certified lead dust sampling technicians will evaluate the dust from window sills, door frames, and more to determine if lead particles are present.
  • Lead-based Inspections – You can also hire an EPA-certified lead inspector to perform a lead-based inspection. Lead inspectors provide a comprehensive report listing the surfaces in your home that contain lead.
  • Lead Risk Assessments – Lead inspections only evaluate the surface of household materials. Lead risk assessments go much further, utilizing on-site investigations conducted by EPA-certified lead risk assessors to determine the presence, location, severity, and type of lead-based hazards in your home.

Evaluating your home with one of these reliable ways to test for the presence of lead will protect the people who live in your home from the long-term health impacts of lead-based paint exposure and poisoning.

Skipping a Lead Inspection

Skipping a professional lead inspection can have costly consequences for new homeowners. When waiving a home lead inspection, you agree to take on the risk and responsibility of lead exposure. If you have young children, this consideration shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Skipping your home lead inspection puts not just you but your child’s safety in jeopardy, as they are more likely to experience the long-term impacts of lead poisoning and exposure.

Removing Lead-Containing Materials

The health impacts of lead exposure are often severe and typically irreversible, at least without medical intervention. Instead of allowing lead-based contaminants to linger and put your family at risk, invest in professional lead abatement or encapsulation services from a certified specialist.

Lead Abatement vs. Encapsulation

There are two main methods for reducing or eliminating the risk of lead exposure in residential homes: lead abatement and encapsulation. Abatement refers to the process of entirely removing lead-containing materials from your home. Alternatively, encapsulation is a cheaper option that involves encapsulating or painting over the original lead-based paint.

Many homeowners have a hard time deciding between abatement and encapsulation. Although encapsulation is inexpensive, from a long-term perspective, lead abatement is always the more effective choice. Lead abatement is worth the investment if it means protecting your family’s health in your new home.

Average Cost of Lead Abatement

Understandably, staying on budget is a big deal when it comes to buying a new home. There are always unexpected costs associated with housing purchases, and that potential is much higher when you buy an older home. If your home contains lead-based paint or lead-coated surfaces, you’re likely considering the cost of lead abatement services.

The average cost of lead abatement ultimately aligns with the size of your home or the contaminated surface area. Expect to pay anywhere from $4 to $10 per square foot for lead abatement services. Encapsulation and remediation efforts are budget-friendly options but are often less effective than lead abatement.

Keeping Your Family Safe From Lead-Based Paint Poisoning

Buying a new home, especially when it’s your first home ever, can be an extremely exciting process. However, it can also prove to be a stressful experience if the presence of lead is detected. Lead exposure is incredibly detrimental to human health and often has severe consequences, including death.

If you suspect that lead-based paints and coated materials are present in your new home, the time to act is now. First, secure a lead inspection and risk assessment. Then, utilize an EPA-certified lead abatement specialist or lead renovator to quickly remove the contaminants. With all of the lead-contaminated surfaces removed from your home, it’s once again safe for dwelling.

Don’t wait for the signs of lead poisoning to appear when it’s already too late to reverse their impacts. Instead, work with your local EPA-certified lead contractor to create a safe, comfortable home for you and your family to enjoy spending time together in for years to come.

If your contractor isn’t yet certified, encourage them to contact ZOTA Professional Training to take the courses required to correctly remove lead contaminants. Securing services from a certified renovation specialist helps you avoid costly financial penalties and potentially adverse health impacts in the future.