Old New England homes are rich in history and character. The style of many modern houses in the region is heavily influenced by English colonial homes of the early 1700s. It was in colonial times when lead pigment was first used.
By the 1920s lead paint usage was at its peak. The paint was strong, it covered a lot of surface area, and it made vibrant colors, all very appealing to home homeowners at the time.
The health hazards of lead paint are many. Although, unlike other home hazards like fire or carbon monoxide, they reveal themselves slowly over many years, making them especially dangerous for children. According to WebMD, high levels of lead paint exposure can cause the following:
- Damage to the brain and nervous system
- Kidney damage
- Behavior and learning problems, such as hyperactivity
- Slowed growth
- Poor muscle coordination
- Hearing problems
- Bone marrow problems
Scary stuff, right? But don’t panic…
Here’s what you need to know about detecting and eliminating lead paint in your home.
If your house was built before 1978, there’s a chance it has lead paint. It was in 1978 that the federal government banned the consumer use of lead paints. Since usage reached its peak in the 1920s, the older your house the higher the likelihood of it having lead paint. This puts old New England homes at greater risk.
To test for lead paint you should seek out a licensed inspector. Most state websites have resources for locating an inspector near you (mass.gov for example). Inspection can cost anywhere from $150-$400 and will depend on the size of your home, rates in your area, and other factors.
Once tested, you will be given options and a risk assessment and can then decide how you’d like to proceed. Some ill-advised homeowners take the situation into their own hands, scraping paint and mopping up the dust. This is exactly what NOT to do. Dispersing all of those lead particles into the air will contaminate your home and yard, seeping into the ground outside.
Many people share anecdotal stories about removing lead paint themselves, insisting, “I did it myself and I’m still alive.” It’s important to remember, however, that those who are truly at risk are the children who will grow up in that house facing longterm exposure to lead.
Young children are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning for three reasons:
- Toddlers tend to put objects into their mouths such as paint chips or other objects that may have traces of lead. This causes a high level of lead absorption
- Children’s bodies are developing rapidly and absorb lead faster than adults
- They can spend decades in a home, developing the symptoms listed above that can then become chronic, lifelong illnesses
To completely remove the lead from your home you’ll need to seek out a lead abatement contractor. View the Lead Safe List for your area to find contractors and receive quotes.
If you have attempted to remove lead yourself, or performed recent renovations that may have dispersed lead paint and are worried that your children may have been exposed you should bring them to their pediatrician. Testing for high levels of lead can be detected by a simple blood test.