Levels of lead in paint are a significant source of lead exposure for children at a global level. Despite the recorded and known dangers of lead, it is alarming to know that almost 60 countries still use and sell lead paints around the world. Thankfully, the United States is not part of this list anymore. According to a study by the IPEN-affiliated NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations associated with the International Pollutants Elimination Network), many of the harmful solvent-based painting materials analyzed contained extremely high levels of lead. Popular tourist destinations such as Mexico, Jamaica, Thailand, and Vietnam continue to use lead paints in residential and commercial painting projects. The bottom line: Your family could be exposed during a holiday.
Does this mean that US homeowners and business owners are safe from lead exposure? Lead paint is not sold anymore in the U.S., and it’s been fully banned for use in residential properties in 1978 due to health concerns. But the good news stops here. While you can’t buy or use lead paint, it can still be present in your building. As a rule of thumb, houses built and decorated before 1978 are likely to contain lead-based painting materials. Unfortunately, the older a property is, the higher the likelihood of lead gets. Almost 9 out of 10 homes built before 1940 contain some traces of lead paint. In other words, lead-related risks remain a reality for homeowners and commercial owners in the U.S. This begs the question of how to manage painting and repair projects with respect to the safety of the workers and the inhabitants. Lead safety is our top priority at Arch Painting. Here is how we make a difference in the handling of lead environments.
The true health consequences of lead poisoning
Lead is a toxic metal that has been part of building structures for a very long time. As effects of its toxicity began to surface, builders and engineers gradually retired lead-based materials. However, federal bans on the use of lead materials don’t eliminate previously completed applications. We can, unfortunately, say for sure that no level of lead exposure has been shown to be without harmful health consequences. So, while US lead paints may not contain as much lead material as toxic paints sold in other countries, it doesn’t make them safer.
Cumulative lead exposure will cause lead poisoning, which occurs when lead enters the body. Young children are particularly affected as they are more vulnerable to toxic lead effects. Lead can affect multiple systems in the body, as it can be distributed via the bloodstream to the brain, kidney, and liver. Over time, lead gets stored inside the skeletal and dental tissues. Lead stored in the bones can be released into the blood, circulating through the body. Pregnant women can also affect the fetus through the bloodstream.
High levels of exposure can lead to targeted attacks on the brain and central nervous systems, which can translate into a coma, convulsions, and even death. Lower levels can leave children with behavioral disorders, a reduced IQ, slow or interrupted development, and increased attention and socialization handicaps. Neurological and behavioral effects are considered to be irreversible.
On a biological level, children and adults can also experience hypertension, immunotoxicity, anemia, renal impairment, and toxicity to the reproductive organs.
What are the risks of lead exposure in the US?
Even though lead paint was banned in 1978, lead exposure remains an everyday risk for countless families. Researchers at the Public Health Institute’s California Environmental Health Tracking Program report that over 1.2 million children may have lead poisoning in the U.S. The figures compiled cases between 1999 and 2010. Over ten years later, we can assume that the number of lead poisoning cases has continued increasing. Unfortunately, 70% of children are not tested for lead poisoning and don’t receive treatment.
Lead poisoning can have 3 different origins for children:
- Passed through the blood by their mother during pregnancy
- Through inhaled lead particles (often the case with old and cracking lead paint)
- Through swallowing, which can occur with leaded water, lead pipes, or via touching lead paint
It is a known fact that the majority of lead poisoning cases in children are linked to lead paint in homes built before or at the start of 1978. Unfortunately, most children who have been affected do not look ill, so neither parents nor doctors suspect poisoning. Development and behavioral issues can take time to appear, at which point the damage is irremediable.
It is worth noting that lead dust is invisible to the naked eye, making it hard for parents to preemptively protect their children in a suspected lead environment.
Safety regulations for handling lead
Homeowners and commercial owners are more likely to face lead issues when planning a repair or painting job. As a result, in an effort to enhance protection levels, contractors and specialist companies are required to be EPA lead certified. The Environmental Protection Agency has a training program dedicated to lead management in renovation, repair, and painting (RRP) projects. The lead-based paint RRP rules are specifically designed to provide contractors with the skills and knowledge to handle potentially leaded environments for the safety of both residents and workers.
If you suspect you have lead paint, you will need to contact an EPA lead-safe company. At Arch Painting, our team is fully trained and licensed to provide renovation and painting work with respect to lead safety regulations. The EPA certification for RRP is valid for 5 years. Our contractors also renew their certifications regularly, learning the latest standard procedures and safety regulations.
Beware that RRP projects and lead abatement (removal) are two different services. As part of the renovation, repair, and painting license, our contractors are qualified to handle design projects that might disturb potentially leaded paint. However, lead abatement projects are typically ordered by the local government as a response to an identified lead poisoning case.
How do I know if my paint contains lead?
We appreciate that there is no easy way to know whether your home contains lead paint. Lead paint looks at first sight like any other type of paint. However, some factors can help you assess the safety risks.
First of all, if your property was built before the lead paint ban in 1978, it might contain toxic materials. Homeowners and tenants often refer to the year of construction for guidance.
- 87% of properties built before 1940 have some lead paint,
- 69% of properties built between 1940 and 1960 are likely to contain lead paint,
- 24% of properties built between 1960 and 1978 used lead paint.
The CDC believes that approximately 24 million homes are likely to contain lead paint.
If you suspect that your home might contain lead paint, you can use a DIY lead paint test kit to confirm your suspicions. Bear in mind that a DIY test is unlikely to provide the same level of accuracy as a professional test done by a certified lab. However, it can be enough to evaluate the situation or decide to have your home professionally tested.
The only visible indicator of lead paint is the reptilian scales that appear when the paint starts to wrinkle and crack. You might hear it described as an alligatoring effect. Alternatively, paint that leaves a chalky residue when rubbed off tends to contain lead. Unfortunately, it can be tricky to spot lead paint if it is under other layers of paint.
What can a certified lead-safe firm do for you?
An EPA lead-safe certified firm is your renovating and painting partner at home. You do not need to test your home for lead paint to hire an RRP licensed company. Yet, for every property built before 1978, an RRP contractor will consider your safety and protection while improving your home. We appreciate that even small amounts of lead dust can be harmful to your family, which is why our expert team relies on training and best practice techniques to minimize lead contamination risks.
Remember: If you wish to remove lead paint, you will need to reach abatement specialists. Lead removal doesn’t include decoration or repair activities. On the other hand, our renovation, repair, and painting services help you design a beautiful home and keep your family safe.
Your safety is our priority
With years of experience handling potentially leaded environments, we know how to approach renovation and painting projects in older properties. Our crew at Arch Painting is committed to delivering high-quality services that exceed your expectations and meet all the lead protection standards. We are passionate about safety at every step of the RRP project. You can rest assured that our team knows how to manage lead hazards without affecting the completion of the renovation, painting, or repair job.
With almost 25 years of experience, we are renowned for our attention to small details and our competitive results. We take great pride in honoring our commitments and cultivating long-term relationships with our clients. As such, you can rely on our team to deliver the professional service you need for your home or commercial decor with extreme care for your safety. We never compromise between painting quality and lead protection.
Concerned about a painting project in an old property? Get in touch with our team for a lead-safe service.