Over the past several years, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stepped up regulations regarding the handling and containment practices that must be taken when working in homes that may be contaminated with lead paint. These new regulations affect any house built before 1978 and any amount of renovation being completed on the home. Below are answers to the three most commonly asked questions regarding lead paint.
Does my home have lead paint?
Although lead based paint was banned in the U.S. in 1978, it began being phased out starting in the early 1960s. More recently, the EPA has launched national advertising campaigns to educate the public on the dangers of lead paint. The chance that your home may be contaminated with lead paint is based on the year it was built. Houses built between 1920 and 1949 are the most likely to be contaminated with an 80% possibility it contains lead paint. For homes built between 1950 and 1959, those chances drop to 60%. Homes built between 1960 and 1969 have only a 25% chance of containing lead paint while homes built from 1970 to 1978 have a 10% risk of containing lead paint. If you are uncertain if your home contains lead paint and your home was built prior to 1978, it is strongly recommended you have the house tested.
Why is lead paint considered dangerous?
Lead paint attacks the nervous systems of children and adults and is especially hazardous to children under the age of 6, unborn children and pregnant women. It can greatly impair the mental development of these children if they are exposed. One reason why there are such stringent regulations for working in a home with lead paint is due to the dust generated by the paint during renovation. When inhaled, these particles go to the brain causing damage to the nervous system as well as high blood pressure. Prolonged exposure to dust is thought to cause Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities. The EPA reports that the smallest amount, one gram of dust, can contaminate a large area posing a risk to neighbors and workers in the area.
Why was lead ever added to paint if it poses such a health risk?
By adding lead to paint manufacturers hoped to add durability to the paint while also enhancing the paint’s color. Throughout the 1920s, Dutch Boy Paint was the best-selling paint brand in the US. Their popularity was fueled by an advertising campaign that touted, “The Most Lead for Your Money!” Despite numerous medical and scientific reports dating back as far as the late 19th century that warned of the health hazards of lead, it was not until the early 1970s that the US government finally acknowledged the danger and outlawed it in 1978.
If you are considering remodeling an older home that may potentially have lead paint, you can visit http://epa.gov/lead for information on test kits certified contractors must use, along with other helpful information regarding lead paint. In addition, when renovating a home built prior to 1978, federal law requires you to hire a remodeling contractor that is an EPA Lead paint certified renovator.
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