Lead-based paint was outlawed for use in residential homes in 1978, after the dangers associated with lead — like seizures, organ failure, joint pain, cognitive impairment, and even death — had become apparent.
Homes built before the ban are, however, highly likely to contain lead paint. A shocking 87 percent of homes constructed prior to 1940 will feature lead paint in the United States. Even after health concerns were raised, lead paint was still used, and 24 percent of homes built between 1960 and 1978 either still have some lead paint, or used to.
The risk is severe enough that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises homeowners to simply assume that any pre-1978 home contains lead paint, and to contact a professional inspector to carry out a thorough assessment.
How to Identify Lead Paint
Are you the type of person who prefers to do things on their own — whether to save money or because you’re always interested in learning more about DIY? That is to be admired. You are probably curious how you can test if your home contains lead paint on your own.
Home lead test kits do exist, and you may be tempted to use one.
However, before you do that, know that the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the EPA both warn against using them. That’s both because these test kits don’t necessarily offer accurate results, and because you may have to disturb the paint to collect a dust sample. Lead dust is the most dangerous thing about lead paint, as the dust disperses into the air, where anyone in the space can inhale it — causing a significant health risk.
You are best off hiring an EPA-certified contractor or risk assessment professional to identify lead paint within your home. After that, you can move forward with appropriate steps to protect yourself and your family from lead paint.
How to Remove Lead Paint
Lead paint, once identified, should be removed by a professional. Never attempt to remove lead paint from your home on your own as an untrained person. Even if you are wearing protective equipment, you are putting yourself and others at risk by doing so.
Depending on the condition of the lead paint within a property, there are multiple options to neutralize the health risk lead paint can pose. Should the lead paint still be in excellent condition, and not chipped or damaged, an expert contractor may be able to encapsulate it with a protective layer and paint over it.
If the lead paint is going to be removed, the following steps are involved:
- A seal is created between the space from which the lead paint will be removed and the rest of the property. This seal will typically be made with plastic sheeting and duct tape. The floor will be sealed with plastic sheeting and duct tape as well. The workers will wear personal protective equipment, including respirators and gloves, to avoid exposure.
- Any furniture should ideally be removed from the space. If this is not possible, it should again be covered thoroughly by creating a tight seal.
- Workers will spray water onto the surfaces they will be removing lead paint from in order to minimize the creation of lead dust.
- The lead paint will be scraped off, starting at the trim joint, with a scraper by working from top to bottom. Special attention will be paid to windowsills and other tricky areas.
- Once much of the lead paint has been scraped off, wet sanding sponges are used to continue the removal process.
- Cleanup should be thorough, and a commercial HEPA vacuum is a must. All surfaces are wiped down with wet towels, and the plastic sheeting that was placed down earlier will also be moistened to prevent lead dust from spreading. Despite the sheets, flooring must be washed thoroughly after the room is cleared.
The entire process of removing lead paint is meticulous and challenging — and although it sounds simple enough on paper, it is wrought with health risks. It is impossible to overstate the risks of doing it yourself, so we’d urge you to hire a specialized contractor like Zona Restoration!