Finding lead paint in your home is pretty common, especially if it was built before the 1980s. That’s because, before lead paint was banned from residential use nationwide in 1978, it was extremely popular for its affordability and appearance. Unfortunately, lead paint especially if it’s chipped or cracked can pose a health risk, particularly to children.

If you discover lead paint in your house, it’s important to take precautions and work toward remedying the problem safely and swiftly. This article takes you through the specific steps you should take if you find lead-based paint somewhere in your home.

Why is Lead Paint In Your Home a Problem?

Lead-based paint in your home is generally not an immediate concern as long as it’s in good condition. However, if the paint starts to chip or deteriorate, it becomes a risk to human health and precautions should be taken.

Health Risk

Paint or dust that contains lead in older homes and buildings is the number one cause of lead poisoning in children. Lead poisoning happens when lead enters and begins to build up in the body. 

When lead is ingested, which can happen when a child chews on paint chips or window sills or other painted surfaces, or when it’s breathed in through lead-containing dust in the air, it can cause serious health problems. These include but are not limited to developmental and learning problems, high blood pressure, anemia, nerve disorders, and brain and kidney damage.

Property Value

If an inspection reveals lead-based paint in your home during a remodel or home sale and you don’t pursue remediation, it may impact your home’s market value. Having your home professionally tested and addressing any lead issues that are found prior to remodeling or selling your home is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also a sound financial decision.

Steps to Take If You Find Lead Paint In Your Home

Here’s what you should do if you discover that you have lead-containing paint somewhere in your home. As discussed prior, these steps are especially important to follow if the paint is chipped, cracked, peeled, or deteriorated in any way.

1. Avoid Disturbing the Surface

The first thing you should do when you identify lead paint in your home is to leave it alone and try not to disturb it. Don’t try to pick at the paint to see what’s underneath and don’t try to sand it or flatten out any bumps or cracks. Lead paint only poses a serious health risk when it’s distrubed, so the best thing to do is leave it alone while you determine the next best steps.

2. Clean Up Any Chips or Scraps of Paint

If you notice any chipped pieces of paint or scraps near the area in question, pick them up using gloves and throw them away in an outdoor trash can. The smaller the scraps, the more likely they are to be ingested or inhaled, so it’s important to remove these from the area.

3. Keep Children Away

Children are at a higher risk of ingesting lead than adults, and lead poisoning poses more serious concerns for their growing brains and bodies. Lead poisoning in children can lead to brain and nervous system damage, slowed development and growth, and issues with learning, speech, hearing, and behavior.

If you discover lead in your home, close off the affected areas as much as you can. Keep play areas clean throughout your house and don’t let children chew on or pick at any painted surfaces in your home.

4. Remove Dust From Shelves and Window Sills

Using a sponge, rag, or paper towel with warm water, remove any dust that has collected on surfaces throughout your home. Focus on areas near where the lead paint was discovered. Any equipment you use to clean suspected lead dust should be thoroughly cleaned or disposed of after use.

5. Use an Air Filter

After you’ve cleaned the area and removed dust with a wet sponge or rag, it’s a good idea to filter the air to ensure you capture and remove small particles of lead dust from your home to avoid inhaling them. 

Unfortunately, a regular household vacuum cleaner doesn’t cut it, since they’re not able to collect small enough particles to remove lead dust from the air. In fact, a regular vacuum may simply kick lead dust into the air, making the issue worse. Instead, use a High-Efficiency Particulate Air Filter (HEPA) vacuum to filter the air.

6. Carefully Paint Over The Area or Have The Paint Professionally Removed

Depending on the condition of the painted surface in your home, you may be able to paint over the lead paint by following specific steps and using a special type of paint primer called an encapsulant. If the paint has begun to deteriorate, if you plan to remodel the area or disturb the paint in any way, or if you simply want to be as careful as possible, professional lead-paint remediation is probably your best bet. Make sure you hire an EPA-certified inspection, risk-assessment, and/or abatement firm in your area.

Person holding a piece of lead pant in hands

Do You Suspect You Have Lead Paint in Your Home?

If you’re not sure if you have lead paint in your home, it’s worth testing the paint. Identifying the problem is the first step to solving it. You can buy DIY lead-paint test kits at your local hardware store, which is a good first step. But the most accurate, safe, and thorough way to determine whether or not you have lead-containing paint in your home is to have a sample tested at an accredited lead-testing lab.

JSE Labs offers same-day results you can trust. Collect your own sample and mail it in or drop it off, or have one of our qualified specialists collect it for you. Feel free to contact us with any questions you have or for more information.