What To Do If Your Home Contains Lead Paint

Millions of homes in the United States contain lead paint. What should you do if you think your home is one of them?

If your home is more than forty years old, it likely contains some lead paint. In fact, until 1978, when the legal maximum lead content was lowered, lead paint was frequently used in homes. Lead paint is not always dangerous as long as it is intact. This would mean that you could see no visible chips or peeling in the paint. However, if the paint is showing any signs of deterioration, it can be extremely dangerous and toxic.

Children, fetuses, and infants are the most vulnerable to lead poisoning. Children are usually exposed either by eating paint chips or playing in areas that have lead contaminated dust. In children and infants, lead poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage. This is mainly due to the fact that their brain and nervous system are not fully developed. Children can be screened for lead poisoning. Your doctor should recommend this. In unborn babies, lead poisoning can retard development.

Lead poisoning can also be hazardous to adults, especially those with high blood pressure. Lead poisoning has been shown to increase blood pressure. Adults can be exposed to lead by inhaling lead dust, which can be found on walls, floors, and furniture. Lead can also cause low sperm counts in men, causing fertility problems.

The effects of lead poisoning may take years to develop. Lead poisoning has been shown to also cause criminal behavior, organ failure, coma, and even death.

There are measures you can take to protect yourself and your family from lead poisoning. If your home was built before 1980, it should be tested for lead paint. Landlords and sellers are required to follow lead disclosure procedures. Ask for an inspection if you feel lead paint may be in your home. You can also request this from your local health department. Do it yourself kits are available, however, they are generally not reliable and can produce false positives. Professionals are also available who can come into your home and test for lead paint. This is usually done with a fluorescent X-ray that can locate lead. Laboratory testing, however, is considered best. This can cost up to fifty dollars and generally involves you bringing in a sample of paint. There are safety measures involved in obtaining the sample that the laboratory can advise you of.

There are also several immediate things you can do to help protect your family. Maintain your homes paint and immediately clean any paint chips. Check your windows frequently, since the friction of opening and closing can cause chips and dust. If you are going to do painting, or any other renovation that may disturb paint, use water to wet the painted areas. This will help keep dust out of the air. You can also mop your walls and floors with soap and water. Use plain, clean water to rinse. Trying to vacuum dust that may contain lead is not recommended since it can send the dust particles right back into the air. If the item that contains lead paint can be replaced, such as a door, this is also very helpful. Covering the paint with a sealant and new paint can also help temporarily. In time, however, when the new paint begins to wear, lead dust can expel again.

In addition to maintaining and cleaning your home, there are also ways to protect your children. Plant grass on soil areas in your yard where they will be playing. Clean your child's toys frequently. Wash your child's hands frequently.

If you suspect lead paint is in your home, the best and safest option for you is to have it tested and removed by a trained professional. While there are ways to protect yourself, they are only temporary and the only sure way to remove the danger of lead poisoning is to remove the lead paint. The government and health departments develop publications frequently to advise consumers on the best ways to handle lead based paint. Remember, if you have any questions or concerns about lead paint dangers, you can always call your local health department. They will be glad to help you.

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