The Dangerous Side of Dealing With Old Houses: the Woodwork Can Harm You and Your Children
Although paint made with lead in it is obsolete, it still remains a matter of concern for both sellers and real estate professionals. Lead was used as a paint additive for well over a century before it was linked to health problems in approximately 1978. That year, putting lead into paint as an additive was made illegal. In 1992, a law called the Housing and Community Development Act established a requirement that the seller of a home was obligated to disclose any potential hazards of lead-based paint to the purchaser at the time of sale. The law requires disclosure of the condition for any home built prior to 1978.
How Can Lead-Based Paint Be Harmful?
The danger is lead poisoning. One might think that with all the time that has passed since 1978 we would all be safe from this hazard, but it is still a very real danger. Children under six years of age run the greatest risk of being poisoned from lead paint because their young, growing bodies take in many of the minerals they have contact with, regardless of whether it is much needed calcium or something dangerous such as lead. Chronically high levels of lead can lead to brain and vital organ damage, behavior problems, hearing difficulties, and damage to the nervous system. These problems can occur in both adults and children, but as an additional complication in children, normal growth patterns can be impaired.
Any home that was built before 1978 that has cracked, peeling, or chipped paint should be treated as a potential hazard. It should be removed as a high priority. If paint containing lead was used around the window or door frames in the home, opening and closing these things in the home may be generating a surprisingly large amount of dust that contains lead. This dust is a hazardous substance and can be extremely difficult to dispose of. Vacuuming, sweeping, and dusting can cause it to get back into the air and it just gets moved around whenever you go near it.
In order to find out whether your home has lead paint, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that homes built prior to 1978 receive a paint inspection done by a professional. A paint inspection will let you know lead additive in every painted surface and will reveal any areas of serious exposure.
Though there are kits available that let homeowners to do the testing on their own, a professional inspection is highly recommended by the EPA to find problems that may be overlooked by someone who does not have professional experience. Some states have specific rules and regulations about resolving of a lead-based paint problem, and a professional inspector will be able to provide the right information.