According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, as many as one out of 11 children in the United States have high concentrations of lead in their bloodstream. During the years prior to 1978, many, if not most, homes were painted using lead-based products. These older homes are a source for lead poisoning that primarily affects children. The dangers of lead paint were brought to the attention of the general public in 1978 when the government officially banned the use of lead-based paints and products. As a general rule of thumb, the older your home is, the higher the risk is that it contains lead paint.
Lead gets into the human body in a number of ways, primarily when people touch surfaces that have been painted with lead paint. Painted surfaces can include walls, floors, doors and window sills. As the lead paint ages, the deteriorating paint breaks down into paint flakes or dust. This paint dust can infiltrate the air throughout a home causing the intake of lead into the lungs. Other methods of transfer include touching lead paint surfaces and then putting your fingers in your mouth, or walking through dust and transferring that dust to other parts of your body. Anyone who comes in contact with the dust runs the risk of a high concentration of lead.
Lead contamination in children can cause a variety of health problems, from headaches and hearing problems to brain damage and behavioral problems. In adults, being around too much lead paint can cause a wide range of medical conditions including high blood pressure, reproductive problems, memory loss, digestive ailments and joint & muscle pain.
If your home was built before 1978, it is best to have your house tested for lead even if the paint doesn't show visible signs of peeling or flaking. Hiring a professional painter to conduct a lead paint inspection will ease your mind; their risk assessment of the potential safety dangers will provide you with the information needed to make the decision whether to repaint your home. If you decide that your home needs painting, be sure to hire professional painters who are experts in managing the dangers of lead-based paint. The sanding and stripping of lead paint can increase the lead in the air and cause lead contamination. They use special techniques to control the spread of lead as they paint your home.
Paint is not the only source of lead, however. Lead is also found in certain soils, and tap water that comes through older plumbing where lead-based pipes or solder was used. In addition to lead found around the home, be watchful of other sources of lead including: old painted toys and furniture, hobby supplies used in stained glass work and pottery, and drinks or food stored in lead crystal decanters or pottery with lead glazes.