Lead paint is dangerous to anyone in contact with it, especially children and those particularly vulnerable to health conditions. Unfortunately, no one knew how dangerous lead was until the 1970s when the US government outlawed lead-based paint and construction products. Another unfortunate fact is that many homes in the US still have lead paint on their walls because it’s difficult to dispose of all the lead paint in every home that it was used on.
So, what exactly are the dangers of lead paint and how can you deal with it in your home? The rule of thumb here is that if your home was built before 1978, it’s likely to have been painted with lead-based paint. After 1978, the federal ban on lead paint went into effect, and it became illegal to paint newly constructed homes with it. If you have a newer house, you’re in the clear. If not, read on.
The Dangers of Lead Paint
The many dangers of lead paint are well-documented. Lead can enter the bloodstream via inhalation or ingestion and once the toxic substance is there, it’s impossible to remove. The body doesn’t have a mechanism for disposing of lead. Lead poisoning is particularly dangerous for pregnant or breastfeeding women and children. Children absorb more of the toxin as they grow. Lead poisoning in children can cause serious developmental issues, such as learning disabilities, lower IQs, hyperactivity, even stunted growth and more. In adults, lead poisoning can cause cardiovascular problems like hypertension, inhibited kidney function, and reproductive issues in men and women.
What You Can Do
If you think your home has lead paint, there are two choices: one, hire a licensed lead removal specialist. These professionals take specialized training and have certificates for the safe removal of lead-based paint. The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of certified contractors for this.
The other option is to remove the lead paint yourself. The first rule is that children and pregnant women not only can’t do this work, but they also have to stay completely away from the area until it’s completely cleaned to avoid exposure. If you can’t complete your clean up in one day, you should plan on staying somewhere else with your children until you can rid your home of lead paint. Here are the other commandments of removing and cleaning up lead paint:
- Work in one room at a time, and seal off the room with heavy plastic sheets. Remove all furniture and all other items from each room or cover them with plastic. Remove all rugs and cover the floor with plastic.
- Wear disposable coveralls, hair covering, shoes, goggles, and a respirator. This respirator must be a certified, official, High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) product. Basic paper or fabric masks will not filter out lead dust.
- Do not smoke, eat, or drink while working.
- Be careful when you clean up. Dispose of your coveralls and personal protective equipment before leaving the work site. Remove any dust from your clothes with a HEPA-approved vacuum, and shower as soon as you can to avoid spreading lead dust throughout your home.
If you’re not sure if your home has lead paint or not, contact Ireland’s Finest Painters to see how testing is done and what you can do to avoid lead poisoning.