Friday, September 22, 2017

Lead Paint Hazards and Testing

Are you buying a home built before 1978?  Maybe you live in one currently.  If so, please read on.

Lead was a common additive to paint up until it was banned from use in residential housing.  As a paint additive, it worked great.  Unfortunately, the health effects were ignored, so there is a lot of it still in housing today.  There are a lot of rumors going around about lead paint, so this post will address several of them and also provide you with information on what to do next.

Rumor 1: "My kids don't eat paint chips!"  Paint Chips are only one source of lead poisoning.  The most common source is actually dust from lead paint.  Some of us older folks remember "self-cleaning paint."  This was nothing more than the lead in paint seeping out, and chalking on the surface.  After it rained, the dirt (and lead) would be washed off and the paint would look great.  The same dust is created by all lead paints, and the lead dust accumulates in your house.  The most common surfaces are the floor, window sills, and window wells.  Young kids, especially those crawling or playing on the floor a lot, pick up the dust on their clothes, hands, pacifiers, toys, etc. and put them in their mouths.  As for the paint chips, they are still a hazard.  One of the properties of lead is that it has a sweet taste.  This encourages kids to eat it.

Rumor 2: "If it's been painted over, it's not a risk"  Painting over lead paint is not an accepted method of remediation.  It may help mitigate, but it doesn't eliminate the risk of lead poisoning.  Additionally, the biggest sources of lead dust (window tracks, door jambs, painted floors, and other friction surfaces) can quickly wear down exposing the lead paint again).

Rumor 3: "It only affects kids."  While children under 6 years old are at the greatest risk to lead poisoning, lead will affect all ages.  In adults, lead can cause cardiovascular, neurological, kidney, and reproductive issues.  Lead can also pass from mother to child while pregnant and through breast milk.

Rumor 4: "They pretty much stopped using it around 1950."  I have personally inspected homes built in 1977 that had lead paint in them, some of them massive amounts.  On the flip side, I have inspected homes built in the early 1900's that had no lead paint at all.  Bottom line, the only way to know is to do a full surface-by-surface inspection to see if there is lead paint in the house.  For a report on the prevalence of lead in housing, click here.

Rumor 5: "I'll just use the test kits I can buy at the hardware store"  These tests are not 100%, and they have a standard set at 1.0mg/cm2 (small concentrations are ignored).  Additionally, proper use requires damaging the paint to ensure all layers are tested.The price of these swabs run about $5 each, and you need a new swab for each location.  In a typical 1500 square foot house, a lead inspector will test over 100 locations.

I'm sure by now you realized that not only is lead a hazard to your entire family, but there has to be an easy way to find out your risk.

We are Texas certified lead risk assessors and inspectors.  We can easily check your house for lead paint and help you determine the risk that it has on your family.  We'll also help you build an action plan to mitigate that risk. We use a combination of methods to find and assess lead paint, including an XRF machine that conducts instant non-destructive testing of painted surfaces.  The great thing is that it can see through all the layers of the paint, so even if there was only one layer of lead-based paint covered by several layers of non-lead-based paint, we will know.  Because it's fast and non-destructive, we can test all the painted surfaces in your home in a reasonable amount of time.  An average house of 1500 square feet takes about 60-90 minutes to test.  We can also do this inspection at the same time we do your home inspection.  If we do find lead paint, we can take dust wipe samples to determine if there is lead dust present and the concentrations.  These wipes have to be sent to a lab for analysis, but the turnaround time fairly quick.  Armed with this information, you can make an educated decision on how best to manage the risk to your family.

If you own rental properties that were built before 1978, you should also get them tested for lead paint.  This can help manage your risk as a landlord.

If your child has been found to have an elevated blood level, we can also perform EBL Investigations to help you find the source of the lead poisoning.  Hopefully your local health department will provide this, but if not, we are available to assist.

Are you doing renovations on a home built prior to 1978?  Make sure you know if and where there is lead paint.  We can do an inspection of the area to be renovated to let you know if you need to take lead paint RRP precautions.

What are the different types of inspections:

A Lead Inspection is an inspection to determine and report the presence of lead-based paint.

If lead paint is found, you should do a full Risk Assessment, which determines the existence, nature, severity, and location of lead-based paint hazards.

If you are buying a pre-1978 house, you have the right to conduct a lead paint inspection.  Don't waive this right in your contract, and have the house inspected.

To schedule a lead paint inspection or full risk assessment, contact Veteran Home Inspections at 210-202-1974 or schedule online at www.vhillc.com.  Based in Bandera, TX, we cover the San Antonio, TX and Hill Country area.