Approximately three-quarters of all houses in the U.S. built before 1978 contain some lead-based paint. When properly maintained and managed, this paint poses little risk. However, 1.7 million children have blood-lead levels above safe limits, mostly due to exposure to lead-based paint hazards.
Lead-based paint is a major source of lead poisoning for children and can cause permanent damage to the brain and many other organs and causes reduced intelligence and behavioral problems. Lead can also cause abnormal fetal development in pregnant women.
Consumers can be exposed to lead from paint
Eating paint chips is one way young children are exposed to lead. It is not the most common way that consumers, in general, are exposed to lead. Ingesting and inhaling lead dust that is created as lead-based paint “chalks,” chips, or peels from deteriorated surfaces can expose consumers to lead. Walking on small paint chips found on the floor, or opening and closing a painted frame window, can also create lead dust. Consumers can also generate lead dust by sanding lead-based paint or by scraping or heating lead-based paint.
Consumers can have paint tested for lead
In-home test requires a trained professional who can operate the equipment safely. This test uses X-ray fluorescence to determine if the paint contains lead. Although the test can be done in your home, it should be done only by professionals trained by the equipment manufacturer or who have passed a state or local government training course, since the equipment contains radioactive materials.
Consumers may choose to have a testing laboratory test a paint sample for lead. Lab testing is considered more reliable than other methods. Lab tests may cost from $20 to $50 per sample.
Contact your state and local health department lead poisoning prevention programs and housing authorities for information about testing labs and contractors who can safely remove lead-based paint.