Many houses built before 1978 utilized paint that contained lead. Exposure to lead can be harmful to small children, adults and even unborn babies. Even children that seem healthy can have high level of lead in their bodies. Small children are more negatively affected by lead paint exposure. In most cases lead based paint that is in good condition is not a hazard, especially when encapsulated with an outer layer. Most frequently the dangers arise when paint turns to dust via friction at doorjambs and window sashes or when paint it improperly removed. It is also possible to become exposed to paint through lead pipes, solders, contaminated soils, or through lead in water.
Understanding how one can become exposed to lead is the first line of defense. The dangerous of exposure are significant. About 900,000 children in the U.S. ages 1 to 5 have blood/lead levels above the levels of concern. If not detected early, children with high levels of lead in their bodies, can suffer from danger to the brain and nervous system. They many also experience behavioral and learning disorders, hearing loss and headaches. Adults can suffer from difficulties in pregnancy, high blood pressure, digesting problems, nerve disorders, memory loss and joint pain.
Today's paints are lead free, however many older homes can be expected to have lead based paint. Testing your home is relatively easy and can be done via many methods. Methods include simple at home testing kits which can be purchased at any local hardware store to sophisticated x-ray machines operated by a licensed professional; accordingly cost vary greatly from $100 – $500 on average. An entire home risk assessment may even be more expensive.
For more information about lead poisoning, lead base paint and the dangers due to exposure contact the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD or access them on the internet at www.epa.gov/lead. The number for the Safe Drinking Water hotline is 1-800-426-4791 or check the phone book for a local EPA regional office near you.