Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home
Are You Planning To Buy, Rent, or Renovate a Home Built Before 1978?
Many houses and apartments built before 1978 have paint that contains lead
(called lead-based paint). Lead from paint, chips, and dust can pose serious
health hazards if not taken care of properly.
Federal law requires that individuals receive certain information before
renting, buying, or renovating pre-1978 housing:
- Landlords have to disclose known
information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before leases
take effect. Leases must include a disclosure form about lead-based paint.
- Sellers have to disclose known
information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before selling
a house. Sales contracts must include a disclosure form about lead-based
paint. Buyers have up to 10 days to check for lead hazards.
- Renovators have to give you
- If you want more information
on these requirements, call the National Lead Information Clearinghouse
Lead From Paint, Dust, and Soil Can Be Dangerous If Not Managed Properly
- Lead exposure can harm young children and babies even before they are
- Even children who seem healthy can have high levels of lead in their bodies.
- People can get lead in their bodies by breathing or swallowing lead dust,
or by eating soil or paint chips containing lead.
- People have many options for reducing lead hazards. In most cases, lead-based
paint that is in good condition is not a hazard.
- Removing lead-based paint improperly can increase the danger to your family.
Lead Gets in the Body in Many Ways
People can get lead in their body if they:
In the United States, about 900,000 children ages 1
to 5 have a blood-lead level above the level of concern.
Even children who appear healthy can have dangerous levels of lead in their
- Put their hands or other objects covered with lead dust in their mouths.
- Eat paint chips or soil that contains lead.
- Breathe in lead dust (especially during renovations that disturb painted
Lead is even more dangerous to children than adults because:
- Babies and young Children often put their hands and other objects in their
mouths. These objects can have lead dust on them.
- Children's growing bodies absorb more lead.
- Children's brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging
effects of lead.
not detected early, children with high levels of lead in their bodies can
- Damage to the brain and nervous system
- Behavior and learning problems (such as hyperactivity)
- Slowed growth
- Hearing problems
Lead is also harmful to adults. Adults can suffer from:
- Difficulties during pregnancy
- Other reproductive problems (in both men and women)
- High blood pressure
- Digestive problems
- Nerve disorders
- Memory and concentration problems
- Muscle and joint pains
Where Lead-Based Paint is Found
Many homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint. The federal government
banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978. Some states stopped its use
even earlier. Lead can be found:
- In homes in the city, country, or suburbs.
- In apartments, single-family homes, and both private and public housing.
- Inside and outside of the house.
- In soil around a home. (Soil can pick up lead from exterior paint or other
sources such as past use of leaded gas in cars.)
Checking Your Family for Lead
Get your children and home tested if you think your home
has high levels of lead.
To reduce your child's exposure to lead, get your child checked, have your
home tested (especially if your home has paint in poor condition and was built
before 1978), and fix any hazards you may have. Children's blood lead levels
tend to increase rapidly from 6 to 12 mouths of age, and tend to peak at 18
or 24 mouths of age.
Consult your doctor for advice on testing your children. A simple blood test
can detect high levels of lead. Blood tests are usually recommended for:
- Children at ages 1 and 2.
- Children or other family members who have been exposed to high levels
- Children who should be tested under your state or local health screening
Your doctor can explain what the test results mean if more testing will be
Where Lead is Likely To Be a Hazard
Lead-based paint that is in good condition is usually not a hazard.
Peeling, chipping, chalking, or cracking lead-based paint is a hazard and
needs immediate attention.
Lead-based paint may also be a hazard when found on surfaces that children
can chew or that get a lot of wear-and-tear. These areas include:
- Windows and window sills.
- Doors and door frames.
- Stairs, railings, and banisters.
- Porches and fences.
Lead dust can form when lead-based paint is dry scraped, dry sanded, or heated.
Dust also forms when painted surfaces bump or rub together. Lead chips and
dust can get on surfaces and objects that people touch. Settled lead dust
can re-enter the air when people vacuum, sweep, or walk through it.
Lead from paint chips, which you can see, and lead dust,
which you can't always see, can both be serious hazards.
Lead in soil can be a hazard when children play in bare soil or when people
bring soil into the house on their shoes. Call your state agency to find out
about testing soil for lead.
Checking Your Home for Lead Hazards
You can get your home checked for lead hazards in one of two ways, or both:
Just knowing that a hoe has lead-based paint may not
tell you if there is a hazard.
- A paint inspection tells you the lead content of every different type
of painted surface in your home. It won't tell you whether the paint is
a hazard or how you should deal with it.
- A risk assessment tells you if there are any sources of serious lead exposure
(such as peeling paint and lead dust). It also tells you what actions to
take to address these hazards.
Have qualified professionals do the work. There are standards in place for
certifying lead-based paint professionals to ensure the work is done safely,
reliably, and effectively. Contact your state lead poisoning prevention program
for more information. Call 1-800-424-LEAD for a list of contacts in your area.
Trained professionals use a range of methods when checking your home, including:
- Visual inspection of paint condition and location.
- A portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) machine.
- Lab tests of paint samples.
- Surface dust tests.
Home test kits for lead are available, but studies suggest that they are
not always accurate. Consumers should not rely on these tests before doing
renovations or to assure safety.
Simple Steps to Protect Your Family From Lead Hazards
If you think your home has high levels of lead:
- Get your young children tested for lead, even if they seem healthy.
- Wash children's hands, bottles, pacifiers, and toys often.
- Make sure children eat healthy, low-fat foods.
- Get your home checked for lead hazards.
- Regularly clean floors, window sills, and other surfaces.
- Wipe off shoes before entering house.
- Talk to your landlord about fixing surfaces with peeling or chipping paint.
- Take precautions to avoid exposure to lead dust when remodeling or renovations
(call 1-800-424-LEAD for guidelines).
- Don't use a belt-sander, propane torch, heat gun, dry scraper, or dry
sandpaper on painted surfaces that may contain lead.
- Don't try to remove lead-based paint yourself.
What You Can Do Now To Protect Your Family
If you suspect that your house has lead hazards, you can take some immediate
steps to reduce your family’s risk:
- f you rent, notify your landlord of peeling or chipping paint.
- Clean up paint chips immediately.
- Clean floors, window frames, window sills, and other surfaces weekly.
Use a mop or sponge with warm water and a general all-purpose cleaner or
a cleaner made specifically for lead. REMEMBER: NEVER MIX AMMONIA AND BLEACH
PRODUCTS TOGETHER SINCE THEY CAN FORM A DANGEROUS GAS.
- Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads after cleaning dirty or dusty areas.
- Wash children’s hands often, especially before they eat and before
nap time and bed time.
- Keep play areas clean. Wash bottles, pacifiers, toys, and stuffed animals
- Keep children from chewing window sills or other painted surfaces.
- Clean or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead
- Make sure children eat nutritious, low-fat meals high in iron and calcium,
such as spinach and dairy products. Children with good diets absorb less
How To Significantly Reduce Lead Hazards
In addition to day-to-day cleaning and nutrition:
Removing lead improperly can increase the hazard to
your family by spreading even more lead dust around the house.
- You can temporarily reduce lead hazards by taking actions such as repairing
damaged painted surfaces and planting grass to cover soil with high lead
levels. These actions (called "interim controls") are not permanent
solutions and will need ongoing attention.
- To permanently remove lead hazards, you must hire a certified lead "abatement"
contractor. Abatement (or permanent hazard elimination) methods include
removing, sealing, or enclosing lead-based paint with special materials.
Just painting over the hazard with regular paint is not enough.
Always hire a person with special training for correcting lead problems —
someone who knows how to do this work safely and has the proper equipment
to clean up thoroughly. Certified contractors will employ qualified workers
and follow strict safety rules as set by their state or by the federal government.
Call your state agency for help with locating certified contractors in your
area and to see if financial assistance is available.
Remodeling or Renovating a Home With Lead-Based Paint
Take precautions before your contractor or you begin remodeling or renovations
that disturb painted surfaces (such as scraping off paint or tearing out walls):
If not conducted properly, certain types of renovations
can release lead from paint and dust into the air.
- Have the area tested for lead-based paint.
- Do not use a belt-sander, propane torch, heat gun, dry scraper, or dry
sandpaper to remove lead-based paint. These actions create large amount
of lead dust and fumes. Lead dust can remain in your home long after the
work is done.
- Temporarily move your family (especially children and pregnant women)
out of the apartment or house until the work is done and the area is properly
cleaned. If you can't move your family, at least completely seal off the
- Follow other safety measures to reduce lead hazards. You can find out
about other safety measures by calling 1-800-424-LEAD. Ask for the brochure
"Reducing Lead Hazards When Remodeling Your Home." This brochure
explains what to do before, during, and after renovations.
If you have already completed renovations or remodeling that could have released
lead-based paint or dust, get your young children tested.
Other Sources of Lead
- Drinking Water. Your home might have plumbing with lead
or lead solder. Call your local health department or water supplied to find
out about testing your water. You cannot see, smell, or taste lead, and
boiling your water will not get rid of lead. If you think your plumbing
might have lead in it:
- Use only cold water for drinking and cooking.
- Run water for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking it, especially if you
have not used your water for a few hours.
- The Job. If you work with lead, you could bring it home
on yours hands or clothes. Shower and change clothes before coming home.
Launder your work clothes separately from the rest of your family's clothes.
- Old painted toys and furniture.
- Food and liquids stored in lead crystal or lead-glazed pottery or porcelain.
- Lead smelters or other industries that release lead into the air.
- Hobbies that use lead, such as making pottery or stained glass, or refinishing
- Folk remedies that contain lead, such as "greta" and "azarcon"
used to treat an upset stomach.
For More Information
The National Lead Information Center
Call 1-800-424-LEAD to learn how to protect children from lead poisoning
and for other information on lead hazards. (Internet: www.epa.gov/lead
EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline
Call 1-800-426-4791 for information about lead in drinking water.
Consumer Product Safety Commission Hotline
Call To request information on lead in consumer products, or to report an
unsafe consumer product or a product-related injury call 1-800-638-2772. (Internet:
firstname.lastname@example.org). For the hearing impaired,
call TDD 1-800-638-8270.
State Health and Environmental Agencies
Some cities and states have their own rules for lead-based paint activities.
Check with your state agency to see if state or local law apply to you. Most
state agencies can also provide information on finding a lead abatement firm
in your area, and on possible sources of financial aid for reducing lead hazards.
Receive up-to-date address and phone information for state and local contacts
on the Internet at www.epa.gov/lead
or contact the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-242-LEAD.