Testing for and Removing Lead Paint
What Are the Health Effects of Lead Exposure?
In children, high levels of lead can cause:
- Damage to the brain and nervous system
- Kidney damage
- Behavior and learning problems, such as hyperactivity
- Slowed growth
- Poor muscle coordination
- Hearing problems
- Bone marrow problems
Even children who appear to be healthy may experience some of these health problems because of lead poisoning.
In adults, lead exposure can cause:
- High blood pressure
- Fertility problems in both men and women
- Nerve disorders
- Memory and concentration problems
- Muscle and joint pain
How Can I Tell If I Have Lead Paint in My House?
Not all houses built before 1978 have lead-based paint, but the older your house is, the greater the likelihood is that it contains lead paint somewhere inside or out.
Yet, even if it does, if the paint is in good condition -- there's no chipping or peeling and no sign that the surface has been broken -- the paint is not a health hazard. But if you're planning a renovation, you'll want to know if your paint contains lead so you can take precautions to avoid exposure.
You'll also want to determine if there is lead-based paint in your house if you intend to sell or rent it. As the seller or landlord, you have a legal obligation to provide potential buyers or renters any information you have about the lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards in your home.
The only way you'll be able to know whether there is lead paint in your home is with an inspection.
What's Involved in an Inspection for Lead Paint?
There are three testing methods used to determine whether lead paint is present in your home. Which one you have done depends on your reason for testing.
Lead-based paint inspection
An inspection identifies whether there is lead-based paint on any surface inside or outside your home. It's particularly useful if you’re planning a renovation, are going to paint, or are having paint removed.
An inspector will inventory all painted surfaces, including those covered by wall paper, both inside and outside the house. Samples are then tested, either on site with a portable X-ray fluorescence (XRF), or collected and sent to a laboratory recognized by the EPA's National Lead Laboratory Accreditation Program. The XRF measures lead in the paint without damaging it, and provides a fast method for classifying painted surfaces as either positive (lead) or negative (no lead). But if the results aren't conclusive, samples of one- to four-square inches of paint are removed and sent for lab analysis.
The report that follows the inspection will identify which surfaces have lead-based paint. The report does not indicate the condition of the paint or whether it poses a health risk.
A risk assessment locates deteriorating paint in your home and evaluates the extent and cause of the deterioration. Then the deteriorated paint is tested, as well as paint on surfaces where it looks like a child has been biting, mouthing, or licking. Painted surfaces in good condition are not tested. A risk assessment also tests household dust as well as soil in outside play areas and around the foundation. Dust samples are usually collected from floors and windows by using a wet wipe, then sent with the paint samples for lab analysis.