Even though paint made with lead in it has been outlawed for decades, it is still a real issue for both homeowners and real estate professionals. Lead had been used as a paint additive for nearly 125 years before it was associated with health problems around 1978. That year, it was determined that lead was prohibited from being put in paint as an additive. Then, in 1992, the Housing and Community Development Act established a requirement that the seller of a home had to disclose potential lead-based paint usage to the purchaser to complete the sale. The disclosure requirement, unless augmented by more restrictive law in some states, is only a requirement to notify the buyer of a potential hazard when a property built before 1978 is sold; there is no legal requirement (again, in most states) to do anything about the hazard.
How Can Lead-Based Paint Be Harmful?
The specific hazard is lead poisoning. Very young ckildren are at the highest risk of being poisoned by lead paint because actively growing bodies absorb many of the mineral substances they have contact with, whether it is something needed and healthful like calcium or a dangerous substance such as lead. Chronically high levels of lead can cause brain and organ damage, behavioral problems, hearing problems, and can damage the nervous system. These problems can occur in both adults and children, but as an added factor in children, it can cause impairment of growth.
Any home built before 1978 that has cracked, peeling, or chipped paint should be treated as a potential hazard. The damaged paint should be repaired immediately. If lead paint was used around the window or door frames in the home, the process of opening and closing these items may be generating a surprisingly large amount of dust that contains lead. This dust is toxic and can be difficult to get rid of. Vacuuming, sweeping, and dusting can cause it to reenter the air and it just shifts around whenever you touch it. Lead-contaminated dust can be tracked out into the yard where it will contaminate the soil around the home. This could pose a further danger to young children and pets.
In order to find out whether your home has a lead-based paint problem, if you live in a home built before the 1978 ban, the safest thing to do is to get a paint inspection conducted by a trained professional. A proper inspection will let you know the status of lead content in every painted surface and will reveal any areas of serious danger.
Although there are test kits available that let homeowners perform testing for themselves, the EPA recommends a professional inspection to uncover problem areas that may be missed by the untrained eye.
Information furnished courtesy of Automated Homefinder, Colorado’s Highlands Ranch real estate specialists.