Lead and Your Health - Part 2

Basic Questions about Testing Your Home For Lead In Paint, Dust, And Soil

Why Should I Test My Home For Lead? There are numerous reasons why you might want to test your home for lead, especially if built before 1978.

  • I. There Are (Or Will Be) Children Age Six And Younger In The Home. Lead from paint, especially peeling or flaking paint, can get into dust and soil in and around a home. Young children may then swallow the lead during normal hand-to-mouth activity. In addition, an unborn child may be exposed to lead in the mother's womb. High levels of lead in the fetus and in children age six and younger have been linked to nervous system damage, behavior and learning problems, and slow growth. Testing can tell you whether there is lead-based paint or a lead-based paint hazard in your home.

  • II. You Are About To Remodel, Renovate, Or Repaint Your Home. Any disturbance of lead-based paint can create a hazard by depositing lead chips or particles in the house dust or in the soil around the house. If you are planning on doing renovation, remodeling, or repainting, you should have testing done by a certified lead-based paint professional on any painted surfaces that will be removed, disturbed, scraped, or sanded before starting the work. If your house was built before 1978 and you hire a professional to renovate, the renovator MUST before beginning renovation, give you a copy of the EPA pamphlet Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home.

  • III. You Are Renting Or Buying A Home. The Federal Lead-Based Paint and Lead-Based Paint Hazards Disclosure Rule requires that the landlord or seller of a residential dwelling built prior to 1978 provide the renter or buyer with:

  • The pamphlet Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home and

  • Any available information on lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards in the home.

  • A buyer must be given the opportunity to conduct testing to determine whether lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards are present. While you are not required by law to test for lead, it may be advisable if you have (or plan to have) young children in the home.

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Figure 147: a homeowner is required to provide renters or buyers with any available information on lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards in homes built before 1978.

  • IV. You Are A Landlord Or Selling A Home. As discussed above, a homeowner is required to provide renters or buyers with any available information on lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards in homes built before 1978. Testing will give you the information that may be requested by potential renters or buyers.


Why Is Testing Recommended For Houses Built Before 1978? Federal regulations placed a limit on the amount of lead in paint sold for residential use starting in 1978. That is why homes built before 1978 are subject to the Disclosure Rule. The older the home, the greater the chance of lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards, and the more important it is to have the home tested.

What Kind Of Testing Do I Want? Three different approaches for testing lead are available: a lead-based paint inspection, a risk assessment, and a lead hazard screen. A combination inspection and risk assessment may also be done. Selection of the approach depends on why you are testing.

  • I. Lead-Based Paint Inspection. A lead-based paint inspection is a surface-by-surface investigation to determine whether there is lead-based paint in the home and where it is located. An inspection may be particularly useful before renovation, repainting, or paint removal. An inspection includes:

  • An inventory of all painted surfaces, including the outside as well as the inside of the home. 'Painted surfaces include all surfaces coated with paint, shellac, varnish, stain, coating, or even paint covered by wallpaper.

  • Selection and testing of each type of painted surface.

  • Then you should get a report listing the painted surfaces in the home and whether each painted surface contains lead-based paint.

  • An inspection does not typically test painted furniture unless it is a permanent part of the home, such as kitchen or bathroom cabinets or built-in bookshelves. Soil, dust, and water are not typically tested during an inspection.

  • The presence of lead-based paint in a home does not necessarily mean there is a lead-based paint hazard to occupants. To make sure, you may want a different testing approach (either a risk assessment or hazard screen).

Figure 148: Typical Painted Surfaces Tested During Inspection

Inside The Home

Built-In Cabinets
Chair Rails
Heating Units

Outside The Home

Door Trim
Fascia, Soffits
Gutters, Downspouts
Lattice Work
Swing Sets
  • II. Risk Assessment. A risk assessment is an on-site investigation to determine the presence, type, severity, and location of lead-based paint hazards. The presence of deteriorated lead-based paint or high levels of lead in dust or soil pose potential hazards to children who may ingest lead inside or playing outside. A risk assessment includes:

  • A visual inspection of the residence to determine the location of deteriorated paint, the extent and causes of the deterioration, and other factors that may cause lead exposure to young children inside or outside the home.

  • Testing deteriorated paint and paint on surfaces where there is reason to believe (from teeth marks or from reports of a parent) that a child has chewed, licked, or mouthed the paint. Painted surfaces in good condition are not tested.

  • Testing household dust from floors and windows. Samples should include areas from a child's bedroom, a child's main play area, the main entrance, and other locations to be chosen by the certified Risk Assessor.

  • Testing bare soil from play areas, the building foundation, and possibly other areas around the home.

  • Optional water testing.

  • Finally, you should get a report identifying the location of the types of lead-based paint hazards and ways to control them. Because not all paint is tested, a risk assessment cannot conclude that there is no lead-based paint in the home.

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Figure 149: Test for lead in paint, especially areas where a small child could reach or chew on.

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