|Exposure to lead
is a severe health
hazard in the home environment. In general, properties built
before 1978 may contain some lead-based paint, and properties built before
1950 are more likely to contain lead in the paint.
The following are several steps that can help reduce your
family’s exposure to lead:
- If you live in an older home or apartment or if you have any reason
to worry about lead poisoning, have your child’s blood tested
for lead. Make sure it is a blood
lead test and that you are told the actual number for your
child’s blood lead. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) defines a blood lead level of 10 ug/dl as a level of concern,
indicating that you should take steps to reduce ongoing lead exposure.
At higher blood lead levels, more aggressive measures are recommended,
such as medical treatment. Young children served by Medicaid are entitled
to free lead tests.
- If you purchase or rent a home built before 1978, you
should have received information about lead-based paint
hazards. As a result of federal requirements that went into
effect in 1996, property owners of pre-1978 units must disclose
any known hazards and provide a pamphlet to prospective
tenants or buyers about lead. Prospective purchasers have
the option to have the property tested for lead hazards
at their own expense.
- Good maintenance is important to keep lead-based paint
- Conduct a simple test for lead dust in your home.
- Consider having your home evaluated for lead hazards by a state- or
EPA-certified risk assessor, or send a dust or paint sample to a laboratory.
Remember, if your home was built before 1978, chances are that it contains
some lead paint—it’s almost certain to be present in pre-1950
homes. Keep in mind that intact lead paint is rarely a hazard.
- Do not remove lead-based paint yourself. This can be extremely
- Keep areas where children play as dust-free and clean
as possible. Wet mop floors and wipe window ledges and surfaces
such as cribs with a general all-purpose cleaner or a cleaner
made specifically for lead and warm water.
- Have children play in sand and grassy areas instead of
dirt, which sticks to their fingers and toys.
- Have children wash their hands after playing outside
and before meals, naps, and at bedtime.
- Do not bring lead dust into your home from the workplace
or environment. Wipe your feet before entering your home.
Remove work clothes and wash them separately from the rest
of your family’s clothing.
- Have your water tested for lead. Water may contain lead from pipes,
solder, or faucets containing lead.
- Eat a healthy diet that includes iron, calcium,
and foods low in fat. Foods rich in iron include eggs, some nuts, and
beans. A healthy diet causes the body to absorb less lead.
Following the steps above and keeping your property well maintained with
no chipping or peeling paint are important steps to creating a lead-safe
environment. However, it is important to remember that dust from lead-based
paint can poison a child. As you can not see the small specs of lead in
household dust, a lead dust test is the only way to be sure that lead-contaminated
dust is not present.
Key steps in testing:
- Call a lead expert or order a home dust kit yourself.
- Collect lead dust wipes on floors and windows sills.
- Send lead test materials to an LPAT-approved laboratory
for analysis. Results are usually mailed back within a few
- Compare the results to the national standards listed
How to arrange for testing:
- Contact your state or county health department.
Some agencies provide testing services or maintain lists of services.
- Use a home dust test kit. Call an environmental
laboratory for a home test kit. (Detailed protocols for lead dust testing
are available on the CEHRC
- Contact a certified lead professional (Contact your state health department).
- Instant spot test kits can provide useful information
but are not as accurate as a test that uses a laboratory.
- HUD standards for lead dust are 40 micrograms of lead per square
foot for floors and 250 micrograms of lead per square foot for window
How much will it cost?
- Lab analysis costs about $5 to $20 per sample, depending on the number
of samples and the laboratory you choose.
- Usually, two or three samples per room provide enough
- Having someone else come to your home to collect the
samples costs more.
Additional resources in this section to Ensure Quality Housing
Conditions by addressing lead hazards:
The Lead Listing - The National Lead Service Providers’ Listing
System - [site temporarily disabled]
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Childhood Lead Poisoning
Prevention Program - www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/lead.htm
US Environmental Protection Agency - Lead in Paint, Dust, and Soil -
Outreach Materials - www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/leadpbed.htm
Lead Paint Handle With Care
Outreach Kit for Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention
Livingston - Maintaining a Lead Safe Property
Paint Can Poison: Learn the Facts