Based Paint Information
Health Hazard & EPA's Safety Regulations
One of the most significant safety concerns relating to painting projects and
renovations is the possibility of encountering lead based paint. Below
you'll find basic safety info on lead based paint, information on how to
protect yourself and your family, as well as info on the effects of lead
poisoning and the history of lead based paint.
Lead based paint is one of the primary
sources of lead poisoning in the US (the other two most common causes are
lead contaminated dust and lead contaminated soil).
Lead poisoning is a very serious
condition which can cause a wide variety of devastating and potentially
permanent health conditions.
Children and pregnant women are
particularly susceptible to harm from lead poisoning.
Most structures built before 1978 contain
heavily leaded paint.
Caution must be used when performing
renovations or construction in buildings older than 1978.
As of April 22nd, 2010, all construction
contractors (including paint contractors) who perform work in pre-1978
housing are required by federal law to be certified in and compliant with
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Lead Renovation, Repair, and
Painting (RRP) regulation.
- What do I need to know about lead
Most structures built
before 1978 contain coats of heavily leaded paint on both interior and
exterior surfaces. Most of the time these older coats have been painted
over with safer, non-leaded paints.
Lead based paint is still used today in
certain industrial and military applications.
- Where is lead based paint found?
- How might a person be exposed to lead?
Lead enters the body either through
inhalation or ingestion of contaminated dust, soil, or paint chips.
- Construction or renovation on older
buildings, as well as degrading, chalking, chipping, or peeling paint
can create paint chips or paint dust
- Generally speaking, lead based paint
that is undisturbed and in good condition is not a hazard, however
when it is disturbed or damaged it may become airborne or flake off
onto the ground where pets and small children may ingest it or where
it may be ground into dust and become airborne.
- What can I do to protect myself and my
family from lead paint?
- If you don't already know whether
your home contains lead based paint, contact your local EPA office and
arrange for a test to be performed.
- Children should receive blood tests
at ages one and two. Have anyone who has possibly been exposed to lead
- Have any damaged or failing paint
surface that might contain heavily leaded paint promptly repaired by a
contractor certified in and compliant with the EPA's Lead
Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) regulation. Signs of failing
paint include bubbling, cracking, peeling, blistering, or chalking
- For any remodeling, painting, or
repairs use a contractor who is certified in and compliant with the
EPA's Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) regulation.
- Can I have lead contamination removed
from my house?
- No, undisturbed lead based paint does
not pose a threat therefore the emphasis is on containing rather than
removing lead based paint.
Lead Based Paint
There are three tests that can be preformed to test a property for lead based
paint: a Lead Based Paint Inspection, a Risk Assessment, and a Lead Hazard
- Lead Based Paint Inspection: Lead
based paint inspections consist of a surface by surface testing of painted
surfaces in and around the home to check for the presence of lead.
Surfaces to be tested include anything that is coated with paint, shellac,
varnish, stain, coating, and paint covered by wallpaper.
Generally speaking painted furniture is not tested unless it is
structurally part of the building such as built in cabinets. The final
product of the test should be an inventory of all the painted surfaces
inside and outside your home and the results of the test for each surface.
Note the results should be specific numerical values as opposed to just 'positive'
- Risk Assessment: A risk
assessment's focus is less on indexing all the painted surfaces in the
home and assessing their lead quantities and more on evaluated potential
lead hazards such as chipping paint, children's rooms, potentially
contaminated dust near degrading paint, etc. In strict risk assessment
tests, only areas identified as potential hazards are tested while areas
that are considered safe, such as undamaged painted surfaces, are not be
Often times lead-based paint inspections and risk assessments are
combined. It is important to note that risk assessments are snapshots of a
home's current risks; new risks can arise if surfaces containing leaded
paints are disturbed, damaged, or start to degrade.
- Lead Hazard Screen Lead Hazard
Screens are a trimmed down version of the risk assessment test. Lead
hazard screens are generally used in instances where it is not believed
that the property has any lead based risks. Newer buildings or older
buildings that have been kept in tip top shape may be good candidates for
lead hazard screens.
The results of a lead hazard screen will either indicate that lead
contamination might be present and a risk assessment test and/or lead
based paint inspection should be preformed, or that lead contamination is
not present and no further action is required.
Lead poisoning causes a vast array of potentially devastating health problems.
The effects of lead poisoning on children are more severe than they are on
adults. Lead is absorbed into the body either by ingestion or inhalation of
leaded paint chips or lead contaminated dust.
Lead is extremely toxic to most tissues in the human body, disrupts many
bodily processes, and interferes with the functioning of every organ system in
the body, particularly the nervous system. As such, the potential
complications and symptoms of lead poisoning are vast, but most notably lead
poisoning can lead to neurological problems, kidney disease, cardiovascular
disease, high blood pressure, and reproductive problems such as low sperm
Pregnant women with exposure to lead have higher rates of complications
including miscarriage and prematurity. Fetuses are susceptible to lead
poisoning from the mother during pregnancy which can result in developmental
problems for the fetus. Mothers can also pass lead through breast milk to
Early signs and symptoms of lead poisoning are varied and easily confused with
other illnesses. They include irritability, persistent tiredness, abdominal
pain or discomfort, short attention span or trouble concentrating,
constipation, insomnia, and headache. Lead screenings should be proactive.
History of Lead Based Paint
Lead has been added mostly to oil based 'alkyd' paints for decades both
for pigmentation and because of lead's performance enhancing capabilities.
Lead based paints dry faster, have increased durability, are more resilient to
moisture damage, and maintain their like-new appearance longer than their non
leaded counterparts. Lead(II) chromate (PbCrO4, "chrome yellow") and
lead(II) carbonate (PbCO3, "white lead") were often used as pigments. Lead
based paint has been used in virtually all applications, from primer to top
coat, on virtually all surfaces from industrial metals to woodwork and
Roughly two-thirds of homes built in the United States before 1940 and about
one-half of homes built between 1940 and 1960 contain heavily-leaded paint.
In 1978 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reduced the maximum
allowable lead content in residential paint to a trace amount, 0.06%. However,
in the U.S. lead based paints are still used in military, industrial, and