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Testing for and Removing Lead Paint

What's Involved in an Inspection for Lead Paint? continued...

A risk assessment report will tell you where lead hazards exist in your house and indicate ways to correct them. Because not all surfaces are tested, a negative report doesn’t necessarily mean there's no lead-based paint in the house. Some homeowners choose to have a paint inspection and a risk assessment.

Hazard screen

A hazard screen is similar to a risk assessment, but not as extensive. It's usually done for homes with a lower risk of lead hazard. An assessor inspects areas of deterioration and collects two samples of dust, one from floors and one from windows. Soil samples are usually not collected unless there's evidence of paint chips in the soil. A hazard screen identifies the probability of there being a risk present. If there is a probability, the report will recommend a risk assessment.

Can I Inspect My House Myself?

The EPA strongly recommends that lead tests be done by either a certified lead inspector or a certified lead risk assessor.

There are home lead test kits available, however. They use chemicals that change color to indicate the presence of lead. Although they’re less expensive than a full inspection or assessment, their accuracy is questionable, and they don’t provide the detail that an inspection or a risk assessment gives.

You may also collect your own paint samples and send them to a lab for analysis. However, the samples you collect may not be as complete as the samples a certified professional would gather.

What Can I Do If I Have Lead Paint in the House?

If tests show lead paint inside or outside your home, there are temporary measures you can take to reduce or control the hazard.

  • Immediately clean up any paint chips you find.
  • Keep play areas clean.
  • Don't let children chew on painted surfaces.
  • Clean dust off of window sills and other surfaces on a regular basis, using a sponge, mop, or paper towels with warm water. Be sure to thoroughly rinse mop heads and sponges after cleaning.
  • Remove your shoes when you enter your home so you don’t track in lead from the soil.
  • If you rent, tell the landlord about the results of the test and the fact that there is peeling or chipping paint.

It’s also important to make sure that your children eat healthy, well-balanced meals. According to the EPA, children with good diets absorb less lead.

Repairing damaged painted surfaces and planting grass in places where the soil is bare will also reduce the hazard of lead paint, but only for a short while. And painting over damaged surfaces with regular paint is not enough to permanently keep the lead away from your family.

To completely remove lead paint hazards and protect your family's health, you need to hire a certified lead abatement contractor. Permanently removing lead's hazards then requires either removing the paint or sealing or enclosing it with special materials. A certified contractor will take precautions to keep the dust and lead paint chips contained until all surfaces can be cleaned and the lead removed. You can contact the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD for help in locating certified lead professionals.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on October 29, 2012
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