OLDER HOMES are beloved for their character, history and quaint details. If you live in a home built before 1978 or are thinking about buying, renting, or renovating one, be sure you consider one particular feature – lead paint.
Many apartments and houses built more than 37 years ago have paint that contains high levels of lead. The older your home, the more likely it’s been painted with a lead-based product. In 1978 the federal government banned its use.
Here are a few tips:
• Lead paint isn’t usually a hazard. If the painted area is in good condition, it’s generally fine.
• Get yourself tested by consulting with your doctor if you believe you’ve been exposed to high levels of lead. A simple blood test can detect hazards.
• Get your home tested and have a professional take a closer look.
• Call a professional. Home tests are available but they’re not reliable enough for ensuring safety. You can find local contacts by calling 1-800-424-LEAD. Make sure to check them out at bbbhouston.org.
• Look out for lead dust. When lead-based paint is scraped, sanded, rubbed or heated, dust can form and resettle on other home surfaces and objects. When you vacuum, sweep, or walk through it, lead dust can also re-enter the air. Even though you can’t see it, it’s a serious hazard that you can easily inhale.
• Watch for lead in the soil. Lead paint can be found on the exterior of a home as well, but the soil outside a new or old building can even pick up hazardous levels from past uses of leaded gas in cars. If children play in the dirt or people carry it inside on their shoes, it can be a hazard as well.
• Keep an eye out for damaged paint. Peeling, chipping, or damaged lead paint is a hazard that needs attention now. Locations that could also be hazardous from frequent wear and tear include stairs, railings, banisters, porches, windows and sills and doors and their frames.
• Take immediate action. You can take quick steps to protect yourself and your family from potential hazards. If you rent, notify your landlord of any damaged paint you spot. Clean up any paint chips immediately and clean all painted surfaces and the floor on a weekly basis. You can use warm water and a gentle cleaning solution, or even a product made specifically for lead. Thoroughly rinse dirty sponges and mops after you’re done.
• Remove the lead for good. You can take temporary action by painting over leaded surfaces, or planting grass in soil that contains lead, but they’ll still need constant attention. To permanently remove lead hazards, you should call a certified lead “abatement” contractor.
• Paint, dust, and soil are the most common places to find lead but there are other potential hazards. You can find lead in drinking water, on the job (if you work in construction or otherwise with lead), on old painted toys and furniture, in foods and liquids stored in lead crystal or lead-glazed porcelain or pottery, and on items made from hobbies such as pottery, stained glass or furniture refinishing.
Jordan Rzad is the senior director responsible for internet marketing at Houston Better Business Bureau.