Lead-Based Paint in Homes :: Don’t Eat the Paint Chips
OR Dig in the Dirt and/or Breathe the Air
With all the talk about the new lead paint regulations being passed down to the renovation industry (See Sean Lintow’s post on the topic from yesterday) – and to tie in with an upcoming post, I got to thinking about lead paint.
Apparently, lead improves paint’s performance — it speeds drying, increases durability, helps paint retain its fresh appearance, and it allows the items it covers to resist moisture that may cause corrosion. Or so says the Wiki on the matter of lead paint. And that’s right, present tense — lead is still used in paint in places all over the world.
* Lead Paint in the US
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) claims, About two-thirds of the homes (in the US) built before 1940 and one-half of the homes built from 1940 to 1960 contain heavily-leaded paint. Later (1977/1978 — earlier in the UK), when it was discovered that this type of paint (actually, the airborne particles resulting from it) creates a hazard to our health – it was outlawed.
And actually it’s a fate not too dissimilar to that of at least one other building product that I can think of. Yes, another naturally occurring substance that in its day was molded into floor and ceiling tiles, shingles and insulation. Sound familiar? Strong, durable and inert, a great insulator, but it too in the end was dangerous.
Like lead paint, asbestos can still be found on, or in, many, many a house, maybe yours. Often hidden by paneling or sheetrock, under ceramic tile or vinyl siding, it is there — peaceful and resting, undisturbed and encapsulated.
Don’t Even Think about Disturbing Lead Paint
That’s what they tell us to do every time we have our rental property tested for lead. And our rental property is tested for lead every time we have a tenant vacate. We get it done professionally as instructed by the city. The pros who come in hit spots on both the window sills and on the floors, with wipes, and then they send these samples off to the lab.
Again according to the the CPSC – Lead was used as a pigment and drying agent in “alkyd” oil based paint. “Latex” water based paints generally have not contained lead. Oil-based paint always with a glossy or glassy sheen — at least that is how I have come to know it. And from my earliest memory, it was always water-based latex for me I swear.
* Where Lead Based Paint is Found in a Home
Have I actually seen lead-based paint (LBP)? Or is it my mind just playing games some other mineral or agent replacing the harmful elements. I think I have — it was there buried in the walls of some of the places where I have worked. A glossed finish, and probably more so at one time, but just slightly faded now — on a piece of woodwork or a wall surface.
But most do never get this deep that could only be accomplished by something like an XRay machine. You see, encapsulate it, here, and this has always been an acceptable course of action, equals “seal it up with another coat of paint;” its formula no doubt new and improved, low VOC.
While I thought for a moment I might ask the question – “Is there a quick way for the average homeowner to (visually) identify the presence of it?” But then I realized, why bother, if you live in an older home, it is more than likely . . . there, hidden under other paint, or behind that door casing you are about to remove, or even in the soil that you may be about to plant.
And I guess it is the mood I am in, but it almost makes me want to have my children wear a lead-rated dust mask . . . all the time.
And Never, Never Sand This Stuff!
Myth Busting (via Wikipedia — I like it):
One myth related to lead-based paint is that the most common cause of poisoning was eating leaded paint chips. In fact, the most common pathway of childhood lead exposure is through ingestion of lead dust through normal hand-to-mouth contact during which children swallow lead dust dislodged from deteriorated paint or leaded dust generated during remodeling or painting. Lead dust from remodeling or deteriorated paint lands on the floor near where children play and can be ingested.
Lead Testing (via the CPSC):
There are do-it-yourself kits available. However, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has not evaluated any of these kits. One home test kit uses sodium sulfide solution. This procedure requires you to place a drop of sodium sulfide solution on a paint chip. The paint chip slowly turns darker if lead is present. There are problems with this test, however. Other metals may cause false positive results, and resins in the paint may prevent the sulfide from causing the paint chip to change color. Thus, the presence of lead may not be correctly indicated. In addition the darkening may be detected only on very light-colored paint.
Another in-home test requires a trained professional who can operate the equipment safely. This test uses X-ray fluorescence to determine if the paint contains lead. Although the test can be done in your home, it should be done only by professionals trained by the equipment manufacturer or who have passed a state or local government training course, since the equipment contains radioactive materials. In addition, in some tests, the method has not been reliable.
More Moxie (Related Links):
Lead Paint Safety: EPA’s Field Guide for Painting, Home Maintenance, and Renovation Work.
The difference between oil-based and water-based paint.
For much more from us on working in pre-1978 houses, please see our Category = Old House. Cheers. ~jb