14 Ways to Minimize Lead Paint Exposure and Avoid Paint Poisoning in Older Homes
Lead paint is dangerous, especially for small children, who might eat crumbling lead paint chips or pick up lead dust on their hands, which they might stick in their mouth. Each year, thousands of children test positive for dangerous levels of lead. Lead in children—even small amounts—can cause behavioral issues, a lower IQ, ADD and physical problems. Homes built before 1978 are likely to contain at least some lead paint. If your home is that vintage, it’s important to reduce the risk of exposure to you and your family when doing paint prep, repairs or home renovation.
Test for Lead Paint
Seal Off Your Work Area
Vacuum the Lead Paint Chips
If You Must Strip…
Give It a Wipe
Spray all-purpose cleaner mixed with water onto a folded paper towel and wipe in only one direction to avoid recontaminating previously cleaned areas. Use a fresh side of the towel for each wipe. You can also do this with a cloth rag by dunking it in cleaner, wiping the area, and rinsing it out in a separate bucket filled with clean water. Just be sure to change the rinse water often.
Bag the Residue
Before doing any repainting, finish cleaning the room and remove all poly sheeting. Seal it in a heavy plastic garbage bag and dispose of it with your regular trash (if allowed). Finally, clean uncarpeted floors with a HEPA vacuum and wash them with all-purpose cleaner.
What is the RRP Rule?
The EPA’s ‘Renovation, Repair and Painting’ (RRP) rule mandates that these people or companies follow specific work practices to keep children and families safe from lead paint exposure during work or face fines of thousands of dollars for failing to comply.
To get certified, they must complete an eight-hour lead paint training course that covers topics like dust-containment and cleanup and disposal procedures. The RRP Rule does not apply to homeowners working on their own homes. For more information about the RRP Rule, visit epa.gov/lead.
Got Old Plumbing? You Might Have Lead
If your home was built before 1986, you might have lead in your tap water. Many houses built through the early 1900s have lead service lines and pipes, and homes built through the late 1980s have copper pipes and fittings joined with lead-based solder. Brass faucets and fittings contain lead, too. When water that’s acidic or low in mineral content sits in older plumbing systems for several hours, lead can leach into the water. However, even if you have lead in your plumbing system, your water might be safe to drink. That’s because, over time, minerals in water coat the insides of pipes, helping to prevent leaching of lead.
Test Your Water
Call Your Water Supplier
If a water test shows unsafe levels of lead, you need to figure out why. Call your municipal water supplier and ask whether the water service pipe at the street has lead in it, and whether your water is corrosive enough to be causing lead to leach from pipes and fittings inside your house.
Get the Lead Out!
If you have unsafe lead levels in your drinking water and your supplier can’t help you, you’ll have to take action yourself. That might mean replacing some lead plumbing components or installing a home water filtration system approved for lead. As a temporary measure—until you can eliminate the source of the lead—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends turning on faucets for several minutes to flush out water that’s been sitting in your pipes for more than six hours. For more information, go to cdc.gov/nceh/lead/tips/water.htm.