Lead paint is relatively common in older houses and the disturbances caused by renovation can be disastrous. Lead was primarily used as a pigmentation agent in most oil paints and a few latex paints until the early 1950’s and as a drying agent into the late 1970’s when governments finally limited the lead content allowed in interior paints. Exterior paints were given warning labels if they exceeded a similar limit, but it is estimated that some exterior paints were up to 70 per cent lead by weight. Currently most Canadian paints do not allow lead to be added at all.
If your house was built before 1980 you may have lead paint on your walls. If it was built before 1950, you most definitely do. There are testing kits that can determine if you have lead paint available at large hardware or health food stores. These kits can also be used on other household surfaces to test for the presence of lead.
If you intend to renovate your home and it may or does contain lead paint, there are a few things to consider – particularly the fact that every method of removing lead paint is dangerous to a degree. The agitation of lead paint creates a deadly dust, which can already be present in high-friction formations like door and window frames. The safest and wisest course of action is to hire a contractor that specializes in lead and asbestos removal and who adheres to proper industry standards. Replacing small lead-coated things yourself is possible, but health authorities warn not to attempt anything yourself that involves more than a few square feet of material. Some of these smaller items can include radiator panels and door and window frames. One of the more damaging things that can be done is covering up the lead paint with new paint. Not only can the new paint cause chips or flaking, but preparing for decent coverage involves sanding and other activities that produce dust. Sealing the lead paint with a liquid epoxy that encapsulates and traps the paint preventing future chipping is a better option.
During the renovating or lead paint removal it is especially important to protect family members and belongings from lead dust and perform an intensively thorough clean up afterwords with the use of a HEPA filter vacuum. Pregnant women and children should be removed from the premises completely until renovations are complete.
Has your child been exposed to lead paint? Lead poisoning can produce flu-like symptoms or even none at all. Children are at a higher risk because they play closer to the ground, are often putting their hands in their mouths and have a faster metabolism therefore absorbing things faster. Ways that increase your family’s risk of being exposed include living in a pre-1960’s house with peeling paint or spending a great amount of time in a building (day care, school, business, etc.) with such, regularly visiting or living in a remodeled house and being in close proximity with exposed people who may carry dust on their clothing.
Heather Rose is a Toronto based Journalist, who is a regular contributor to the Muddy York Real Estate Blog. Heather website is located at heatherroseportfolio.squarespace.com.