Q. What do I need to know about lead-based paint?
A. Lead is a highly toxic metal that may cause a range of health problems, especially in young children. When lead is absorbed into the body, it can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs, like the kidneys, nerves and blood.
Lead may also cause behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures and in extreme cases, death. Some symptoms of lead poisoning may include headaches, stomachaches, nausea, tiredness and irritability. Children who are lead poisoned may show no symptoms.
Lead paint in homes is most commonly found on windows, trim, doors, railings, columns, porches and exterior walls. There are two ways lead can get into your body, through breathing or swallowing lead dust particles, and by eating chips, dust or soil containing lead based-paint.
In general, the older the home or structure, the more likely it is to have lead-based paint. Anyone selling a home that was constructed before 1978 is required to provide potential buyers with a lead-paint disclaimer. In it they must disclose anything they know about the presence of lead paint in their home. They must also provide buyers with information warning them about potential lead-based paint hazards.
If you live in a home built before 1978 and you're contemplating any work that will disturb more than six square feet of painted surfaces inside the home or 20 square feet on the exterior of the home, the contractor you hire is required by law to be trained and certified by the EPA. A paint inspection will determine if there is lead content in the paint. A risk assessment will determine if there are any sources of lead exposure which may be hazardous and what actions you need to take.