What Is Lead-Based Paint & Why It's Dangerous

Lead-based paint should be taken seriously. Get to know its history, when it stopped being used and its associated health risks.

Lead is a natural element and metal, but incredibly toxic to humans. Used for hundreds of years dating all the way back to the Roman Empire, lead paint remains one of the most common causes of lead poisoning. An eye-opening statistic to many, a significant number of older homes still contain lead-based paint. Keep reading to learn why an AmeriSpec lead-based paint test and inspection is an important step for homeowners, real estate professionals and commercial buildings.

Lead Paint History & Hazards

The threat lead presents should not be understated or underestimated. Lead is an extremely toxic, naturally occurring Earth element that can cause a range of severe health issues. When lead is ingested and then absorbed by the body, it may result in brain, kidney and other vital organ damage including harm to the nervous system and blood. Because of the development process, children and women who are pregnant are at elevated risk of health concerns associated with lead paint poisoning. In children, learning and behavioral problems could result from lead exposure. In extreme cases, death can even occur.

Before it was banned, lead paint was widely used in houses, toys and products of all types. Lead-based paint was tough, durable and crack-resistant. It was added to achieve specific color compositions and to decrease drying times. Since it has been regulated, scientists have identified lead as a glutamate receptor blocker, a neurotransmitter that is essential for learning and developing young minds. Additionally, lead ingestion results in cells throughout the body receiving restricted oxygen levels, which can generate numerous associated health problems.

In the United States, lead-based paint is now only allowed for certain industrial applications. But, its presence is still a factor for many homes. Lead paint and lead hazards are crucial to check for before moving into a purchased home or selling a home.

Safety & Detection

Contacting a trained AmeriSpec lead inspector to test for lead hazards in and around your home is the best way to assess the possible presence of lead. Our inspectors attend classroom instruction, in-field inspections and hands-on technical training before being deployed into the field to conduct general home inspections. When a local AmeriSpec inspector tests your property for lead, they do so thoroughly and meticulously.

Even if lead-based paint is hidden underneath fresher coats of paint, it still can be potentially dangerous. Depending on your location and specific needs, our certified lead inspectors could utilize a portable x-ray fluorescence machine (XRF) to detect any presence of lead. Results from this type of testing can be analyzed by some AmeriSpec professionals in seconds. Our lead-based paint inspectors may also take dirt, soil or dust samples from around your windows and doors for lab analysis.

While an inspection is the only definitive way to assess the presence of lead in your home, there are preventive measures that can be taken:

  • Wipe down and wash frequently. Lead paint chips, and equally dangerous dust, tend to accumulate around high-use areas like window sills. Wipe down these flat surfaces with a damp towel, being sure to dispose of the towel when you’re finished. Dust and flakes collect on other smooth surfaces like floors as well. Use a damp mop to clean these areas regularly. Moisture helps pick up lead dust without spreading it.

  • Keep children safe. HUD recommends that blood levels in children be tested at ages 1 and 2 and then again if they spend significant time in a home with potential lead hazards. Wash your child’s hands frequently. If you do spot any loose lead-based paint chips, pick them up immediately and carefully with a towel before discarding the towel in the trash and wiping down the area.

  • Hire a professional. AmeriSpec has been a trusted home inspection partner for over 30 years. We’re committed to quality, communication and accessibility. Your local lead paint inspector will work around your busy schedule to test for lead paint in your property’s interior, exterior and surrounding soil. If lead has been identified in a property or home’s soil, you should consider a comprehensive water bacteria test. Our inspectors can assess a property’s water supply for a range of contaminants and pollutants, including lead, chlorine and other heavy metals.

Lead & the Law

The legal landscape involving lead-based paint testing, inspections and general lead usage has been evolving ever since it was banned by Congress. In 2014, the Safe Drinking Water Act was revised to further reduce the allowable amount of lead in plumbing fixtures. Lead, when used for plumbing purposes, can corrode, spreading into drinking water. A well water quality test or water bacteria test is advised for properties experiencing any levels of impurity.

The EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule requires that any company working on a renovation, repair or painting project that may cause lead-based disturbances in structures built before 1978 be EPA certified. This guarantees firms or construction partners complete renovation projects safely and securely, with minimal lead disturbance and safe cleanup.

Federal law dictates that any known information concerning the presence of lead hazards or lead-based paint must be disclosed to homebuyers and renters. This is in addition to providing lead warning statements and EPA-approved informational materials. Homeowners and real estate professionals must give a 10-day period in which a lead-based paint inspection can be conducted.

Buying or selling a home is usually one of the most exciting parts of life, and AmeriSpec wants to make sure your experience is as safe and enjoyable as it should be by inspecting for and identifying any lead-based hazards on your property. Lead and the presence of lead-based paint is something to take seriously. Preserve your property and protect its occupants by trusting the expert network of AmeriSpec professionals.