Wednesday, March 16, 2016
We all want to make sure that we are living in a safe, healthy environment. One area where we do have control is in our own homes.
Lead is one of the most dangerous elements that can be present in a home, and young children, especially under two years of age, are the most sensitive to lead poisoning. Lead was frequently used in paints prior to 1978, and flaking, peeling, and cracking paint create dust that can be breathed through the air, or ingested by inquisitive children by chewing on or touching painted surfaces such as window sills, stair railings and door frames. Though some lead is naturally present in the outdoors, lead-based exterior paint can flake off and contaminate the soil around the home and be tracked indoors so it is important to remove shoes at the door and wash hands.
The risks of lead exposure to young children include lower IQ, slower growth, learning and behavior problems and anemia. Unborn children are at risk also as lead is stored in the mother's body and can be transferred to the fetus and via breast milk to the infant. Adults are not immune either, and high levels of lead in the body can lead to cardiovascular problems, hypertension, kidney and reproductive issues among others.
The good news is that lead poisoning is entirely preventable. For one thing, lead-free paint was banned for residential use in 1978, so if your home is newer than that, there should not be cause for concern. According to the EPA, houses built between 1960 and 1977 are 24% more likely to contain lead-based paint than newer homes; between 1940 and 1959 69% more likely; and before 1940 87% more likely. But even if your house was built prior to 1978, if the paint is in good condition; i.e., not peeling, cracking, or flaking, and sealed under layers of newer paint, then there may be no cause for alarm. Frequent wiping down of painted surfaces and vacuuming with a HEPA filter are good practices. But if in doubt, it is wise to test for the presence of lead.
However, if a home is being remodeled, and was built prior to 1978, it is likely that paint will be disturbed in the process. It is important to have the paint in the home tested for lead content. The EPA's Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP Rule) "requires that firms performing renovation, repair, and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities and pre-schools built before 1978 have their firm certified by EPA (or an EPA authorized state), use certified renovators who are trained by EPA-approved training providers and follow lead-safe work practices". In Georgia, that means that a Certified Renovator must be licensed by the Georgia Environmental Protection Department (EPD) to supervise all RRP-regulated projects and to perform lead testing on all surfaces that will be disturbed.
The removal of lead is a federally mandated process. A lead test must be performed on any home from 1978 or older by a certified renovator. The certified renovator must wear very specific protection gear and properly secure the area being affected with multiple layers of protection. If the paint involved is outdoors, the soil or immediate area must be properly covered. One area which is generally overlooked is in window replacement. Windows in homes from 1978 or older may contain lead and can contaminate the area outside and inside the house if it does contain lead and areas are not properly protected.
If your home was built prior to 1978, and you are planning to remodel, be sure to use a certified renovator to test for lead.
For more information from the Environmental Protection Agency on how to keep your home safe and lead-free visit http://www.epa.gov/lead/protect-your-family#sl-home