Lead Paint: Do You Have It in Your Home?
Many homes built before 1978 still have lead paint on walls and woodwork, often hidden beneath newer layers of paint. Even in small amounts, lead paint can be dangerous to children's health if they ingest it.
By Diana Rodriguez
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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Lead poisoning is a serious health issue for both children and adults. It can affect anyone, even affect a fetus in the womb, if the mother inhales or ingests lead from paint.
And if you think you can't come into contact with lead paint, think again. If you live in an older home, your walls, doors, trim work, and handrails may be covered with lead paint. And even if the original paint has been painted over many times, you may still be at risk for lead poisoning. Old paint that chips off can pose a problem, as can dust from lead paint that is sanded down.
A Short History of Lead in the Home
Lead is a highly poisonous material, and lead paint is not the only culprit. Before the dangers of lead were fully recognized, however, many commonly used materials like paint and gasoline were made with lead. Lead is everywhere and, unfortunately, you can't see it or smell it. Lead can be found in:
- House paint made or used prior to 1978
- Plumbing materials like faucets and pipes in homes
- Dirt and soil
- Utensils, plates, and other serving ware made from pewter
- Some batteries
- Paint and art sets for children
- Items like fishing sinkers and bullets
- Furniture and toys that were painted prior to 1976
- Some painted toys and household items that were made in countries other than the United States
- Small figurines
Health Problems Caused by Lead Paint
If lead paint chips are ingested or dust from sanding off old layers of paint is inhaled or swallowed, lead poisoning may result. Lead poisoning can cause these symptoms and complications:
- Lack of energy
- Frequent headaches
- Abdominal pain (usually from ingesting a large amount of lead)
- Moodiness and irritability
- Problems paying attention
- Behavioral issues
- Hearing difficulties
- Damage to kidneys
- Lower IQ
- Delayed physical and mental development
- Affected senses
Adults may experience:
Know Your Lead Paint Risk
Every home, before it can be bought or sold, must have a lead paint disclosure that states what the owners know about the history of the home and the presence of lead-based paint. You can check the disclosure on your home to see if there is any known history of lead-based paint use in the house.
Getting the Lead Paint Out
Paint samples from your home can be tested to determine if they contains lead. Though there are do-it-yourself home tests available, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends lab tests as the most reliable method. If you are concerned that you or your children have been exposed to lead, ask your doctor about blood tests to check for signs.
If tests confirm that there is lead paint in your home, the best thing to do is get rid of it … safely. Here are some ways to address the situation:
- Remove lead paint.Professionals can strip or sand away lead paint from your walls, and take care of dust and other lead contaminants that may be left behind. For a very small area, you can do it yourself, but use paint thinner or other wet methods to avoid dust.
- Cover up lead paint.Don't just paint over it — you need to seal in lead paint and its dust and flakes with a special sealer.
- Replace trim containing lead paint.If you have a door, windowsill, or other trim pieces that have been painted with lead paint, remove them carefully to avoid creating dust and replace them with lead-free materials.
Video: Lead Poisoning Will Make You Go Crazy - What Are The Chances You Are Being Poisoned Right Now?
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