Lead paint dangers in houses built before 1978… do I remove it?

Before 1978, paint was made with lead. It was added as a pigment, and also served to speed up drying times, make the paint more durable, and moisture resistant. It was then discovered that lead is a carcinogen, and that lead paint can cause the following health problems:

  • Damage to the kidneys
  • Developmental delays
  • Damage to the nervous system
  • Stunted Growth
  • Reproductive problems

Along with causing a multitude of health issues, lead-based paint tastes sweet, which posed an increased risk for children, who will put anything and everything in their mouths. As a result, regulations were put in place to ban further usage of lead-based paint in the US in 1977 in residential buildings and on children’s toys. Canada and the European Union also set up regulations regarding the usage of lead paint.

Although production was stopped, there are still houses whose paint hasn’t been updated since the 1970s. It seems unlikely, but that’s how long that paint will last when properly taken care of. It may even be underneath layers of new paint! As long as the paint is in good condition, and shows no signs of damage, it’s not a health risk.

If the paint has begun to flake, crack, chip, or presents signs of water damage, it is now a health hazard and should be removed immediately. If you have lead paint on high traffic areas, such as:

  • Windows
  • Window sills
  • Doors
  • Door Frames
  • Railings
  • Banisters
  • Porches
  • Stairs

It should be removed, since over time constant wear and tear will begin to damage the paint. If you aren’t sure if you have lead paint in your house, you can have a paint inspection. A person will come in and do a risk assessment on the presence and condition of lead paint in your house. You’ll need this information if you ever plan to do any remodeling, as some activities will stir up large amounts of lead dust, which is toxic.

If you do decide to remodel, make sure you hire a company that is properly licensed and equipped to deal with lead paint. Just ask and they can tell you whether they are or aren’t. Or if you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer, make sure you educate yourself on the safe handling of lead paint. It’s very dangerous and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

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