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Lead Paint: Lovely, but Lethal!

Young children put everything in their mouths, even things that seem in no way tasty. Despite protests from Mom and Dad, toddlers want to taste everything from the TV remote to Fido’s toys to things that may be even more dangerous–like paint chips.

Even if your kids can resist the urge (or are old enough to know better), lead paint is still hazardous. Kids can absorb it through their respiratory systems and through their skin and are affected more seriously than larger, adult bodies. Long-term exposure to lead can cause brain development problems. Bottom line: lead paint can be a home safety hazard.

Whether you have kids or not, it’s worth finding out if your home was painted with lead-based paint. Primarily, homes built before 1978 are the ones most likely to have had lead-based paint applied to them, but don’t forget that old furniture can have lead paint too. (In other words, the cute, antique dresser you wanted to put in the baby’s room may not be such a great idea.)

Bring in the Pros

If you suspect that your home may have lead paint, the EPA recommends conducting a professional paint inspection. While there are home test kits that you can purchase, the experts at the EPA say they’re about as reliable as a mood ring. A professional paint inspector will remove several square inches of paint from various areas around the house and have it sent to a lab, where it will be tested to obtain more accurate results.

When it comes to lead paint, you don’t want to play guessing games. Consider hiring a professional paint inspector.

The inspector may want to take soil samples around the outside of the house, as lead can collect in the ground from runoff. If you have kids playing outside or are growing vegetables, you’ll want to know what’s in the ground and how it can affect you.

In addition to testing the paint, some inspectors are also certified to perform a risk assessment, which helps determine the level of danger that exists (if any exists at all). If the risk assessment determines that there is significant hazard, you may want to go the extra step of having your water tested, as well. By the way, if testing reveals the need for lead abatement, you are not obligated to use the same firm that conducted your testing.

So, if what you know about your home encourages you to have testing done, how do you know that you’re getting a credible lead specialist and not some fly-by-night outfit? The EPA can help you find a certified specialist by filling out a form online. For in-depth information on how to deal with lead paint, the EPA also provides a helpful pamphlet that is chock full of good information.

Remember, if you suspect that your home has lead paint, consider having it properly tested, assessed and – if necessary – abated. Parents will always have to keep a sharp eye on what their kids are trying to eat, but crossing lead paint off the list of potential hazards removes a significant worry.

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