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  • Carlton Clark

Testing For Lead Paint

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

Before being banned in late 1978, lead paint was used in most homes. In fact, 87% of homes built before 1940 have some lead-based paint. 24% of homes built between 1960 and 1978 have some lead-based paint. Lead-based paint isn’t just found in homes, but also in apartments, government-assisted living facilities, public housing, and businesses. It existed on walls, windowsills, and baseboards.

Why was lead-based paint used in the first place?

Lead helps the paint adhere to surfaces better when used on household appliances, surfaces, and even children's toys. It’s important to test your old home for lead paint because of the dangerous health risks, which we’ll get into later. Living in an older home with character, history, and craftsmanship you can’t find today is great. However, it can come at serious risk for you and your family.

In this blog post, we’re going to discuss why lead paint is bad, how to protect yourself and others from it, EPA-approved lead paint test kits, and lastly what to do if your residence tests positive for lead paint.

Why Is Lead Paint Bad?

Millions of children and adults have been affected by the irreversible effects of lead paint poisoning. Some of the irreversible symptoms in children include lower intelligence, learning disabilities, and behavioral issues. Adults exposed to lead paint can suffer from high blood pressure, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, memory loss, and diminished motor skills. ​​In 2019, the National Poisoning Data System (NPDS) of the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) reported 2286 single exposures to lead.

Protecting Yourself From Lead Paint

Recent studies have found that new cases of lead paint poisoning are most commonly linked to renovations in uncontained work environments. Renovation activities like sanding, cutting, and demolition can create lead dust and paint chips. All it takes is one particle of lead to be absorbed through inhalation or ingestion. To protect yourself, you should always wear appropriate PPE and keep children away from the work area until it’s fully cleaned.

EPA Approved Test Kits

Because of the significant risk of lead paint poisoning, the EPA has approved three test kits. These test kits comply with the RRP rule, standing for renovation, repair, and painting. Since 2010, contractors painting, repairing, or renovating homes with lead paint present must be properly licensed. They must also follow specific work practices to prevent lead paint poisoning.

The three EPA-approved lead test kits are the 3M™ LeadCheck™, D-Lead®, and the State of Massachusetts lead test kits. They can reliably determine if lead-based paint is present on wood, metals, drywall, and plaster surface

  • 3M™ LeadCheck™: These lead test kits can be purchased at Lowes, Home Depot, and Amazon. These swabs can detect lead in as little as 3 seconds. If the swab turns red, then it means that lead is present.

  • D-Lead®: The D-Lead® Lead Paint Test Kit quickly determines if lead-based paint is present giving results in seconds. This test kit can detect lead on even more surfaces than the 3M Lead check, including; structural steel, aluminum, concrete, brick, stucco, wood, and more.

  • State of Massachusetts Lead Test Kits: The Massachusetts Lead Test Kits are the third EPA-approved lead testing kit. These kits are only permitted for use by certified Massachusetts State Lead Inspectors and Risk Assessors. Massachusetts has some of the strictest lead paint rules in the country.

If Your Home Tests Positive for Lead

The EPA offers specific steps to take if your home tests positive for lead.

  • Step 1: Find a certified inspector or risk assessor to conduct a thorough assessment of your home. 3M LeadCheck and D-Lead can’t give you a complete understanding of the amount of lead in your home.

  • Step 2: Review the report provided to you by the risk assessor and act on the recommendations. Your two options are generally to come up with a maintenance plan that over time lowers the possible lead exposure or hire a lead abatement professional.

  • Step 3: If abatement is recommended, the EPA’s locator can help you find an abatement firm. From there, the abatement specialist must notify the EPA at least five days before beginning the abatement process. If a maintenance plan is recommended, you’ll be given instructions including inspections, renovations, and a list of recommended contractors with experience working with lead.

Final Thoughts

Remodeling an older house is an exhilarating and enjoyable adventure. Unfortunately, most homes built before 1978 contain dangerous levels of paint made with lead. This can cause a host of health problems, especially in children. More, you cannot differentiate paint with lead from paint without lead using the naked eye. Lead paint testing kits can quickly give you an answer to if your home has a lead problem or not.

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