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Homeowner Tips

How lead paint poisoning can happen and some tips to help you reduce the risk

Lead paint causes lead dust when it chips, peels and flakes.  The chipped paint then turns to dust on the floor.  How can children be put at risk? When kids play on the floor, they touch the floor — and then put their hands in their mouths.  Lead paint dust is a potential health threat for kids ages 0-6 and pregnant women.

When children play on floors that contain lead paint dust, they may ingest lead paint over time.   There are other ways to ingest lead paint: gnawing on painted surfaces, eating chips of paint, soil contamination, and even lead water pipes.   However, the most common risk scenario is ingesting lead dust by touching contaminated surfaces and putting hands in the mouth.  The ingestion often happens without the parents realizing what is happening.

If you are concerned about lead paint poisoning in your home, here are our top recommendations to minimize the risk.   Note:  These are based on our experience and are not explicitly approved by the EPA, HUD, MDE or CDC.  If you have any concerns about the health of your children, please have them tested for lead blood levels and contact an accredited lead paint risk assessor, so that your potential hazards can be evaluated.

  1. Check for Damaged Paint:  Ensure that there is not any defective lead based paint anywhere in your home.  Make sure to check inside, outside and your basement.  Defective paint is defined as paint that is chipping, peeling, flaking, rusting, worn, or cracked.
  2. Flooring Materials:  Dust swipes that fail are usually from non-carpeted floors.  This makes sense when you think about it.  When lead paint dust is present on a non-carpeted floor,  there is no where for the dust to go.  It sits on top of the floor and then the child has access to touch it and then put their hands in their mouth.  When a floor is carpeted, (or has a throw rug or blanket on it) the lead dust seems to work it’s way into the fibers of the fabric.  When kids touch the carpeting, they are less likely to touch the lead dust, because it is not at the top of the fibers.  Therefore, one of the easiest ways to diminish the risk is to put down carpeting or blankets or throw rugs and make sure your kids are playing on the carpeted areas.
  3. Wooden Windows:  Wooden windows produce a tremendous amount of lead paint dust.  If you have original wooden windows, keep them closed, clean the horizontal surfaces frequently (window sills and window wells) and be vigilant for defective paint on all the window components. Original wooden windows can be an incubator for defective paint.  Due to water, heat, humidity,  and snow, wooden windows frequently have defective paint around their components.   The best way to eliminate the hazards caused by wooden windows is to replace them.
  4. Basements:  Unfinished basement floors very frequently fail the dust swipe test for lead dust.  The two main reasons for this seem to be that the floors don’t frequently get cleaned (who cleans an unfinished basement floor?) and  if they are cleaned regularly, they can be very difficult to clean with the rough concrete surface that can be a ‘collector’ of lead paint dust.   An inexpensive solution is to paint the floor to seal in the lead dust, and make a smooth cleanable surface.  Other options, would be any type of flooring, wood, tile, linoleum, carpeting, etc.
  5. Renovating Your Home:  Renovation contamination.  When you renovate a pre 1978 home and use a contractor, the contractor is required to be EPA RRP certified.  When you rehab, you can make things worse by spreading the lead dust everywhere.  Using an RRP contractor and sampling for dust when the renovation is finished is good way to ensure that the house is safe for your family.
  6. Regular Check-Ups:  Have your kids checked for elevated blood levels annually or more often.  Similar to weight loss, the scale will give you the full picture.  Blood tests for lead will clearly reveal whether your kids have elevated lead blood levels.  Getting lead blood tests is one of the best ways to understand your risk, and it allows you to rapidly intervene if you start to see the levels rise.