Facts about lead
FACT: Lead exposure can harm young children and babies even before they
FACT: Even children who seem healthy can have high levels of lead in their bodies.
can get lead in your body by breathing or swallowing lead dust, or by eating soil or paint chips containing lead.
You have many options for reducing lead hazards. In most cases, lead-based paint that is in good condition is not a hazard.
Removing lead-based paint improperly can increase the danger to your family.
If you think your home might have lead
hazards, read on to learn about lead and some simple steps to protect your family.
effects of lead
Childhood lead poisoning remains a major environmental health problem in the United States.
can get lead in their body if they:
Put their hands or other objects covered with lead dust in their mouths.
paint chips or soil that contains lead.
Breathe in lead dust, especially during renovations that disturb painted surfaces.
Lead is more dangerous to children because:
Babies and young children often put their hands
and other objects in their mouths. These objects can have lead dust on them.
Children's growing bodies absorb more
Children's brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
not detected early, children with high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from:
Damage to the brain
and nervous system
Behavior and learning problems, such as hyperactivity
Lead is also harmful to adults. Adults can suffer from:
problems (in both men and women)
High blood pressure and hypertension
Memory and concentration
Muscle and joint pain
Read more on the health effects of lead.
renovating, repairing or painting a home, child care facility or school built before 1978?
22, 2010, federal law requires that contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb more than
six square feet of paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978 must be certified and trained to follow
specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.
Protect your family and make sure you only hire a contractor
who is in a Lead-Safe Certified Firm. Find a Lead-Safe Certified Firm near you.
Read about EPA's requirements
for renovation, repair and painting.
Renovate Right: Important Lead Hazard Information
for Families, Child Care Providers and Schools
Are you planning to buy or rent a home built before 1978?
and apartments built before 1978 have paint that contains lead (called lead-based paint). Lead from paint, chips, and dust
can pose serious health hazards if not taken care of properly.
Federal law requires that individuals receive certain
information before renting or buying a pre-1978 housing:
LANDLORDS must disclose known information
on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before leases take effect. Leases must include a disclosure form about lead-based
SELLERS must disclose known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before selling a house.
Sales contracts must include a disclosure form about lead-based paint. Buyers have up to ten days to check for lead hazards.
Where lead is found
In general, the older your home, the more likely it has lead-based
Paint. Many homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint. The federal government banned lead-based paint
from housing in 1978. Some states stopped its use even earlier. Lead can be found:
In homes in the city, country,
In apartments, single-family homes, and both private and public housing.
Inside and outside of the house.
In soil around a home. Soil can pick up lead from exterior paint, or other sources such as past use of leaded gas in cars,
and children playing in yards can ingest or inhale lead dust.
Household dust. Dust can pick up lead from deteriorating
lead-based paint or from soil tracked into a home.
Drinking water. Your home might
have plumbing with lead or lead solder. Call your local health department or water supplier to find out about testing your
water. You cannot see, smell or taste lead, and boiling your water will not get rid of lead. If you think your plumbing might
have lead in it:
Use only cold water for drinking and cooking.
Run water for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking
it, especially if you have not used your water for a few hours.
The job. If you work with lead,
you could bring it home on your hands or clothes. Shower and change clothes before coming home. Launder your work clothes
separately from the rest of your family's clothes.
Old painted toys and furniture.
and liquids stored in lead crystal or lead-glazed pottery or porcelain. Food can become contaminated because lead can leach
in from these containers.
Lead smelters or other industries that release lead into the air.
use lead, such as making pottery or stained glass, or refinishing furniture.
Folk remedies that contain lead, such
as "greta" and "azarcon" used to treat an upset stomach.
Where lead is likely
to be a hazard
Lead from paint chips, which you can see, and lead dust, which you can't always see,
can be serious hazards.
Peeling, chipping, chalking, or cracking lead-based paint is a hazard and needs immediate
Lead-based paint may also be a hazard when found on surfaces that children can chew or that get a lot
of wear-and-tear. These areas include:
Windows and window sills.
Doors and door frames.
Stairs, railings, and
Porches and fences.
Note: Lead-based paint that is in good condition is usually not a hazard.
Lead dust can form when lead-based paint is dry scraped, dry sanded, or heated. Dust also forms when painted surfaces bump
or rub together. Lead chips and dust can get on surfaces and objects that people touch. Settled lead dust can re-enter the
air when people vacuum, sweep or walk through it.
Lead in soil can be a hazard when children play in bare soil or
when people bring soil into the house on their shoes. Contact the National Lead Information Center (NLIC) to find out about
testing soil for lead.
How to check your family and home for lead
that a home has lead-based paint may not tell you if there is a hazard.
To reduce your child's exposure to lead,
get your child checked, have your home tested (especially if your home has paint in poor condition and was built before 1978),
and fix any hazards you may have.
Children's blood lead levels tend to increase rapidly from
6 to 12 months of age, and tend to peak at 18 to 24 months of age.
Consult your doctor for advice on testing your children.
A simple blood test can detect high levels of lead. Blood tests are important for:
Children at ages one and two.
and other family members who have been exposed to high levels of lead.
Children who should be tested under your state
or local health screening plan.
Your doctor can explain what the test results mean and if more testing will be needed.
You can get your home checked in one of two ways, or both
A paint inspection
tells you the lead content of every different type of painted surface in your home. It won't tell you whether the paint
is a hazard or how you should deal with it.
A risk assessment tells you if there are any sources of serious lead exposure
(such as peeling paint and lead dust). It also tells you what actions to take to address these hazards.
professionals do the work. There are standards in place for certifying lead-based paint professionals to ensure the work is
done safely, reliably, and effectively. Contact the National Lead Information Center (NLIC) for a list of contacts in your
Trained professionals use a range of methods when checking your home, including:
Visual inspection of paint
condition and location.
A portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) machine.
Lab tests of paint samples.
Note: Home test kits for lead are available, but studies suggest that they are not always accurate. Consumers
should not rely on these tests before doing renovations or to assure safety.
can do to protect your family
If you suspect that your house has lead hazards, you can take some immediate
steps to reduce your family's risk:
If you rent, notify your landlord of peeling or chipping paint.
paint chips immediately.
Clean floors, window frames, window sills, and other surfaces weekly. Use a mop, sponge, or
paper towel with warm water and a general all-purpose cleaner or a cleaner made specifically for lead.
NEVER MIX AMMONIA AND BLEACH PRODUCTS TOGETHER SINCE THEY CAN FORM A DANGEROUS GAS.
Thoroughly rinse sponges
and mop heads after cleaning dirty or dusty areas.
Wash children's hands often, especially before they eat and before
nap time and bed time.
Keep play areas clean. Wash bottles, pacifiers, toys, and stuffed animals regularly.
children from chewing window sills or other painted surfaces.
Clean or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid
tracking in lead from soil.
Make sure children eat healthy and nutritious meals as recommended by the National Dietary
Guidelines. Children with good diets absorb less lead.
can temporarily reduce lead hazards by taking actions such as repairing damaged painted surfaces and planting grass to cover
soil with high lead levels. These actions are not permanent solutions and will need ongoing attention.
remove lead hazards, you must hire a certified lead "abatement" contractor. Abatement (or permanent hazard elimination)
methods include removing, sealing, or enclosing lead-based paint with special materials. Just painting over the hazard with
regular paint is not enough.
Always hire a person with special training for correcting lead problems -- someone who knows
how to do this work safely and has the proper equipment to clean up thoroughly. Certified contractors will employ qualified
workers and follow strict safety rules set by their state or the federal government.
Contact the National Lead Information
Center (NLIC) for help with locating certified contractors in your area and to see if financial assistance is available.