You’ve heard that lead paint can lead to neurological damage in young children. But surely this isn’t a danger in your home — or is it?
According to Angie’s List magazine, nearly 38 million homes in the U.S. – or 40% of the residential housing stock in the country – contain lead-based paint. Homes built before 1978, when lawmakers banned this paint for residential use, are likely to contain lead paint, and the older the home, the more likely. Nine in 10 homes built before 1940 are affected.
In addition, window and doorframes can contain lead, even when the rest of the house is lead-free. These areas present special dangers: “Friction or impact surfaces such as door frames, stairs and windows can break down the paint during normal use and release lead in the home,” warns Angie’s List.
Lead paint encapsulated by non-lead paint presents no danger to children. But if you are planning renovations in a pre-1978 home, the danger level can quickly elevate: It’s important to hire a contractor who is EPA-lead certified. (Note: an EPA-lead certified contractor is required for any project that will disturb an area more than 6 square feet inside the house, or 20 square felt outside the house.)
Angie’s List warns homeowners to avoid contractors who downplay the dangers of lead paint. In a recent consumer test, the company found that nearly 11% of contractors contacted for renovation projects in a lead-paint environment offered misleading advice, such as: “Lead only harms you if you eat it” or “The whole lead thing is very overblown unless your kids are chewing or gnawing on the windowsills.” (Both claims are untrue; lead dust becomes airborne and can settle on toys and other items that children might put in their mouths).
In short, “this may seem like a lot of effort,” writes Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks. But extra caution is necessary. “You must be diligent to ensure that it doesn’t do lasting damage to a child’s health and development.”
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