Common Misconceptions About Lead Poisoning and Prevention
When Was Lead Paint Banned?
After World War II, the price of lead increased and alternatives to lead additives were developed. Lead paint was always considered “the good stuff” and was more expensive and therefore was used sparingly after the 1940s.
The use of lead paint began to be phased out in the 1950s and was typically reserved for exterior and high moisture/high friction applications such as window jambs and wooden stair tread.
Tri-Tech has tested houses as old as 1951 as have found no lead-based paint on the interior. Lead-based paint was typically used more commonly in the 1940s-1960s in higher-end housing. More on the historical usage of lead in paint here. More on the historical usage of lead in plumbing systems here.
Making property "lead-safe" is difficult and expensive
Making a house lead-safe is “easy” and generally consistent with basic maintenance and housekeeping.
Except for paint on walls and ceilings and window sills/trim, most interior and exterior lead paint is removed or covered up as a home is renovated.
Stabilizing and repairing painted surfaces is generally easy if the cause of the damage is corrected (e.g. water damage/friction etc.).
Lead paint dust is heavy and is therefore is readily cleaned.
It is important to clean up paint dust quickly before it is ground into the more dangerous form of invisible fine dust by foot traffic or poor-quality vacuums.
Generally, there is no reason to remove rather than to repair/renovate or cover lead paint except for friction surfaces such as door and window jambs. Installing new windows is typically the biggest and most costly step to making an interior lead-safe
Chemical swab brands that have been evaluated and approved by the USEPA are actually rather accurate when used properly.
Some in my profession would seek to discredit a $1 swab when compared to a $20,000 testing instrument.
However, in the experience of Tri-Tech, approved lead swabs are reasonably accurate for their intended purpose and the degree that the swab changes color is a good gauge of relative lead content.
Children eating paint chips is a major cause of lead poisoning…
In the 1970s and early 1980s, it was widely believed that direct ingestion was a major cause because of problems of child hunger and poverty and the fact that lead salts in paint have a slightly sweet taste.
However, we have learned since then that it is actually the fine lead dust ingestion and inhalation that causes a large majority of lead exposures.
In addition, the latex and other paints that would now cover lead-based paint have a bitter taste and therefore direct ingestion of paint chips is very rare to this day.
However, it is possible for young children to chew on window sills, bed rails and other painted surfaces when they are teething.
Chemical swabs used by renovators and homeowners are inaccurate
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A homeowner or renovator doesn’t need an exact numerical reading of lead content. In general, the darker the color, the more lead there is. Therefore, a swab tells you that the darker the color, the more caution and dust controls need to be used.