What is lead?
Lead is a toxic metal. In the past it was used in household products until it was recognized as a health hazard. Since the 1980’s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other organizations have worked to ban or reduce lead use in consumer products.
Where is lead found?
Homes, apartments, and other buildings built before 1978 may contain lead or lead dust. The primary sources of lead include:
– old paint on walls, window sills, trim, and other home surfaces
– tap water exposed to lead plumbing products (i.e., old lead pipes, solder)
– soil contaminated by paint chips from sanding and prepping the home’s exterior
– soil contaminated by past exposure to gasoline, which contained lead until 1978
– air pollution resulting from nearby industrial areas
Lead may also be present in the tap water of new homes. According to the EPA, new “lead-free” pipes still contain up to 8% lead. And, this lead can leach into a home’s tap water for up to 5 years.
After 5 years, the mineral build-up that forms on pipe interiors reduces the water’s contact with lead.
Is lead dangerous?
Lead is dangerous if it is swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed by the skin. Children have the highest risk of poisoning from lead exposure. And, pregnant women can pass lead toxicity to an unborn child. Lead can also be harmful to adults.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), lead can cause these health effects:
– brain and nervous system damage
– behavioral problems
– learning problems
– slowed growth
– hearing problems
– reproductive problems in men and women
– pregnancy difficulties
– high blood pressure
– digestive problems
– nerve disorders
– memory and concentration problems
– muscle and joint pain
Is lead dust a major issue?
To some lead dust is the major issue. Lead dust can be extremely fine and is, therefore, easily absorbed into the bloodstream. In the case of a small child with a developing nervous system, lead dust may be far more destructive than, say, a lead chip. Dr. John Graef, a leading expert in this field, has written that there is enough lead in a chip the size of a finger nail to kill a child. However, in most cases a chip works its way through a digestive system without being fully absorbed and is then excreted. Lead dust is another matter. It is easily absorped and the effects are immediate and long lasting.
What should I know if I’m buying a home built before 1978?
If that is the case, the seller must disclose the potential for lead-based paint in the home. The seller is not required to test the home for lead, or to pay to have the home tested.
However, the seller should provide you with a lead test report if one has been conducted in the past. You should also receive a pamphlet from your real estate agent that explains the hazards of lead-based paint.
If you plan to have the home inspected for lead-based paint, or to arrange for a lead risk assessment, you will have 10-days to do so before your sales contract is formalized.
It’s important to note that the law requiring disclosure of lead-based paint does not apply to foreclosures. So, if you’re buying a bank-owned home built before 1978, you may not automatically receive lead disclosure information.
How do I determine if lead is in my home?
You’ll need to have the home tested. Several types of tests are available:
– Lead hazard screen – This test is only used when the home is in good condition, with minimal chipped or flaking paint.
– Lead-based paint inspection – This test inspects all interior and exterior painted surfaces. The inspection report lists each surface and indicates if the surface contains lead-based paint.
– Lead risk assessment – This test includes an inspection of the home for deteriorated paint, which is then tested for lead. The assessment also tests dust in the home and soil around the home. The risk assessment report includes suggestions for controlling any identified hazards.
– Water – This test checks for lead in tap water. This is not a standard test. You’ll need to specifically request it if you want it.
– For more information, see the EPA’s publication, Testing Your Home for Lead in Paint, Dust, and Soil.
What if my home tests positive for lead?
Your assessment may find lead-based paint in your home that is in good condition and does not currently pose a health risk. In this case, you’ll probably be advised to monitor the condition of the paint from time-to-time.
If lead-based paint hazards are identified, you’ll be given suggestions for safely dealing with the problem. If the suggestions include paint removal, it’s best not to do the work yourself. Using sanders, heat guns, scrappers, and chemicals can create dangerous lead dust.
Hiring a licensed lead abatement contractor will help keep you and your family safe from dangerous lead exposure.
Can I test for lead myself?
Hometest kits are sold for lead testing. But, the EPA cautions that they aren’t reliable. It’s best to hire a licensed professional who has been trained in lead-based paint testing and abatement.
Do many homes have lead-based paint hazards?
It is estimated that at least 19 million homes have lead-based paint hazards, of which at least 4 million have young children under age the age of six living in them. (HUD 1990; EPA 1995).
If there’s lead in my home, do I have to remove it?
Usually, no. In most states there are no laws that require you to remove lead paint. (Check with state and local authorities to see if there are more stringent laws where you live.) But, you do have to contend with it. That is “manage it” using approved, lead safe work practices when performing maintenance or repairs.
Will having a lead safe home increase its value?
With the exception of some areas in the Northeast, the lead issue is new to most people. Most consumers know little about lead poisoning. However, this will change over the new few years, and create a demand for housing that is free of lead hazards. The change is expected to come:
1) as public awareness about lead poisoning increases;
2) as mortgage markets require inspections, assessments & lead hazard control plans;
3) as insurance companies develop policies about lead; and,
4) when lawsuits increase across the United States.
Interestingly, as public awareness about lead increases, so do the number of lawsuits. Most are aimed at lenders and landlords who do nothing about lead evaluation and management in their rental properties. Recently, there were over 1,500 lead-related cases pending in the Boston and Baltimore courts alone.
Why did the government pass these laws now?
That’s a really good question. The laws should have been passed years ago. The United States and England are the last industrialized nations to address the lead paint issue. The ill-effects of lead are so well documented that Germany, Australia, Japan and many other countries banned the use of lead in residential paint in the early 1920s. France started banning lead in paint in the 1870s.
The removal of lead from gasoline and from the solder in tin cans has had a huge impact. Deaths from lead poisoning, which were quite common, are very rare today. One of the last hurdles is paint in housing. Today, 80% of poisonings are caused by lead paint in homes and apartments built before 1978.
What are the penalties for non compliance?
Non-compliance to this rule can result in fines, penalties and work stoppages from either DOS, OSHA or both. Our course instructors have nearly 30 years in the lead contracting business, including lead abatement, lead testing, remodeling, training and inspections. The 8 hour course consists of 6 hours of classroom time and 2 hours of hands-on training.
Who must be certified to test for lead?
All Massachusetts contractors, sub-contractors, maintenance workers, and multi-family property owners and managers who work on properties built prior to 1978 must be RRP certified and licensed!