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Lead–Based Paint FAQ

Lead paint poisoning affects over one million children today. Adverse health effects include learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and speech delays. If not done in a lead–safe manner, renovations and repair activities that disturb lead–based paint can expose children, as well as adults, to harmful levels of lead dust.

On April 22, 2008, the EPA issued a rule requiring the use of lead–safe work practices aimed at preventing lead poisoning in children. On April 22, 2010, the rule became effective and firms performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead–based paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978 must be certified, individual renovators must be trained by an EPA–accredited training provider, and the firms and renovators must follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.

Who needs to worry about lead–based paint?

Anyone who lives in a home built before 1978 should be aware of the dangers posed by lead–based paint. The federal government banned lead–based paint in 1978, and some states banned its use even earlier. Lead paint can be found in every kind of house, whether in the city, suburbs, or country, in both apartments and single–family homes.

How can you tell if your home has lead–based paint?

Home testing kits are not always accurate. The only sure way to know whether your home has lead–based paint is to have your home inspected by a professional risk assessor. Your contractor should be able to provide you with information about whether or not lead is present, and also what actions you need to take to address any hazards.

What health problems can it cause?

Lead can cause a variety of health problems. It’s most dangerous for children, who can suffer brain damage, nervous system damage, behavioral and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems and headaches. Adults exposed to lead may suffer from symptoms including reproductive problems, high blood pressure, memory problems and muscle and joint pain. Lead can also harm babies before they are born.

When does lead–based paint become a problem?

In most cases, lead–based paint that is in good condition is not dangerous. However, anytime the paint cracks or peels, it needs immediate attention. Dust from lead–based paint is very dangerous, and may be produced when surfaces get a lot of wear and tear or bump together, such as window frames and door frames. Lead–paint dust can get on surfaces people touch or put in their mouth (like children’s toys).

How can lead–based paint be safely removed?

Lead–based paint should not be dry scraped, dry sanded, or heated. This fills the air with dangerous dust and can greatly increase the risk of lead poisoning. EPA Lead–Free Certified Contractors and Renovators follow a strict set of guidelines set by the state and federal governments. They may remove the paint, seal it, or enclose it with special materials. Use a qualified professional to ensure the work is done safely and effectively.

How can I test my family for exposure to lead?

Even children who seem healthy may have high levels of lead in their bodies. Check with your doctor to see if blood tests would be appropriate. Your doctor will be able to guide you based on the results.

Where can I get more information?

The EPA offers a lead–awareness web site with detailed information, including these PDF brochures:

Information about Lead–Based Paint

New EPA Lead Ruling Effective April 2010

The EPA’s new Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule is now fully enforceable. The rule is designed to protect children and adults in homes and child–occupied facilities built prior to 1978. Read the EPA’s fact sheet What You Need To Know About Lead Poisoning for very important health information, and learn what the PDCA and its members are doing to help.

For your reference, the Painting and Decorating Contractors Association has provided this information on lead–based paint.

Lead in Your Home: A Parent’s Reference Guide (pdf)

To heighten awareness about lead poisoning prevention, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed Lead in Your Home: A Parents Reference Guide. The Agency believes this is an essential resource for anyone from owners to tenants concerned about the dangers of lead in their home and environment.

Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home (Download pdf pamphlet in English | Spanish)

If not conducted properly, certain types of renovations can release lead from paint and dust into the air. Many houses and apartments built before 1978 have paint that contains lead (called lead–based paint). Lead from paint, chips, and dust can pose serious health hazards if not taken care of properly. Federal law requires that contractors provide lead information to residents before renovating a pre–1978 housing: Pre–Renovation Education Program (PRE) RENOVATORS have to give you a pamphlet titled “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home,” before starting work.

Reducing Lead Hazards When Remodeling Your Home (Download in English | Spanish)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is concerned about homeowners and building professionals who may be exposed to lead as a result of remodeling or renovation projects. The purpose of this pamphlet is to help reduce lead exposure then conducting home renovation and remodeling activities. This pamphlet will be updated as new information about lead hazard reduction becomes available. 26 page PDF – English Version

The National Lead Information Center
Call 1–800–424–LEAD (424–5323) to learn how to protect children from lead poisoning and for other information on lead hazards. To access lead information via the web, visit and

The Painting and Decorating Contractors of America is a full–service national trade association representing over 3,100 companies engaged in all sectors of the coatings application industry. PDCA has provided this information to assist you in making an informed decision when you next contemplate a painting or decorating project.


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