Lead-based paints were used in many homes prior to its banning by the federal
government in 1978. Lead-based paints, as the name implies, contains lead. Many
documented cases of lead poisoning can be attributed to lead contamination
resulting from the degradation of such paints. Lead-based paints in good
condition pose little risk but those that begin to peel, chip, chalk, or crack
do pose a health risk.
As lead-based paint products degrade lead can be released into the surrounding
environment in the form of dust. Lead dust can also be formed and become
airborne when lead-based paint is sanded or scrapped. Painted surfaces when
rubbed together can also produce lead dust. The lead dust can settle and then
become airborne again when disturbed by sweeping, vacuuming, or just walking
through a contaminated area. Chips of paint flaking off of exterior surfaces can
even cause ground contamination.
Lead poisoning can occur when lead is ingested if inhaled and the concentration
of lead in the body will grow over time with continued exposure. Physical
symptoms of lead poisoning in children can include: damage to the brain and
nervous system, behavior and learning problems, slowed physical development,
hearing problems, and chronic headaches. Adults are also affected and can have:
difficulties during pregnancy, reproductive problems, high blood pressure,
digestive problems, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems, muscle
and joint pain.
Dealing with Lead-Based Paints in Your Home
It is sometimes better to just assume that if your home was build prior to 1980
that is contains lead based paints (Even though lead-based paints were banned in
1978, it is certain that some builders and paint supplies continued to sell and
use existing stocks beyond that date). The Housing and Urban Development
department of the federal government (HUD) has a 16 page brochure giving tips on
dealing with lead paint.