When you have an older home it is important to be aware of Lead. This does not necessarily mean that all surfaces with lead paint is dangerous. There are conditions when lead paint is not a hazard if the paint is in good condition and is not on an impact or friction surface like a window, door or stair.

The EPA has developed standards to help property owners, lead paint professionals and government agencies identify lead hazards in residential paint, dust and soil. The hazards may be paint chips, lead in household dust, child-accessible or mouthable painted surfaces of windows and doors, and lead in residential soil.

A preferred approach, consistent with The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, calls for removing, controlling, or managing the hazards rather than wholesale-or even partial-removal of the historic features and finishes. This is generally achieved through careful cleaning and treatment of deteriorating paint, friction surfaces, surfaces accessible to young children, and lead in soil. Lead-based paint that it not causing a hazard is thus permitted to remain, and, in consequence, the amount of historic finishes, features, and trim work removed from a property is minimized.

The Preservation Brief 37  Appropriate Methods for Reducing Lead-Paint Hazards in Historic Housing, does a great job of focusing on the assessment:

Because the hazard of lead poisoning is tied to the risk of ingesting lead, careful planning can help to determine how much risk is present and how best to allocate available financial resources. An owner, with professional assistance, can protect a historic resource and make it lead-safe using this three-step planning process:

  1. Identify the historical significance of the building and architectural character of its features and finishes;
  2. Undertake a risk assessment of interior and exterior surfaces to determine the hazards from lead and lead­ based paint; and,
  3. Evaluate the options for lead hazard control in the context of historic preservation standards.

The historical significance, integrity, and architectural character of the building always need to be assessed before work is undertaken that might adversely affect them. An owner may need to enlist the help of a preservation architect, building conservator or historian.

Features and finishes of a historic building that exhibit distinctive characteristics of an architectural style; represent work by specialized craftsmen; or possess high artistic value should be identified so they can be protected and preserved during treatment. When it is absolutely necessary to remove a significant architectural feature or finish-as noted in the first two priorities listed below-it should be replaced with a new feature and finish that matches in design, detail, color, texture, and, in most cases, material.

Finally, features and finishes that characterize simple, vernacular buildings should be retained and preserved; in the process of removing hazards, there are usually reasonable options for their protection. Wholesale removal of historic trim and other seemingly less important historic material, undermines a building’s overall character and integrity and, thus, is never recommended.

For each historic property, features will vary in significance. As part of a survey of each historic property, a list of priorities should be made, in this order:

  • Highly significant features and finishes that should always be protected and preserved;
  • Significant features and finishes that should be carefully repaired or, if necessary, replaced in-kind or to match all visual qualities; and
  • Non-significant or altered areas where removal, rigid enclosure, or replacement could occur.

This hierarchy gives an owner a working guide for making decisions about appropriate methods of removing lead paint.

What is Lead?

Lead is a naturally occurring element found in small amounts in the earth’s crust. While it has some beneficial uses, it can be toxic to humans and animals causing of health effects.

What makes lead paint a hazard?

  • The lead paint is deteriorating. As the paint breaks down, it releases paint chips and lead dust that can contaminate the home and be easily ingested by young children through hand-to-mouth activity.
  • The lead paint is on friction or impact surfaces. Impact to surfaces like door frames or stairs can damage the paint and release lead.
  • The lead paint is on child-accessible surfaces that show evidence of teeth marks. Be aware of lead paint on surfaces such as window sills, railings, and stair edges that are child height and have been or may be chewed on or mouthed by a child.

EPA’s Input To Lower Your Chances of Exposure to Lead 

Simple steps like keeping your home clean and well-maintained will go a long way in preventing lead exposure. You can lower the chances of exposure to lead in your home, both now and in the future, by taking these steps:

Determine if your family is at risk for lead poisoning with the Lead Poisoning Home Checklist (PDF).

There are safe procedures to remove lead paint. You as the homeowner and/or consumer should insist on seeing the EPA’s Lead Certified Seal

Common renovation, repair, and painting activities that disturb lead-based paint (like sanding, cutting, replacing windows, and more) can create hazardous lead dust and chips which can be harmful to adults and children. Home repairs that create even a small amount of lead dust are enough to poison your child and put your family at risk. If you live in a home or apartment that was built before 1978, make sure you renovate right with a contractor that is EPA or state Lead-Safe Certified. Only contractors trained with approved courses and certified by EPA have learned about careful work practices and thorough clean-up, which will allow your home renovation or repair to be done safely and protect your family.

It’s Federal law – so any contractor working in a home or child care facility built before 1978 without certification could be operating illegally.

For more information Contact:
The National Lead Information Center
at 1 800 424 LEAD

EPA’s webstie: http://www.epa.gov/lead

Preservation Brief 37: Appropriate Methods for Reducing Lead-Paint Hazards in Historic Housing


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