Testing for lead is easy to do and if you suspect lead may be present either inside or outside your home, then you should find out. This is especially important if you have children since lead exposure in children is very dangerous, more so then in adults.
So the magic date to watch for is 1978. Homes built prior to that date have a greater likelihood of having lead present. If you have a home built prior to 1960 you almost certainly have lead in your paint. The U.S. Department of Health called lead the number one threat to children in the United States in 1991. Paint Manufactures knew as early as 1904 that lead was a dangerous ingredient in their product. They continued to incorporate it into their paint anyhow because a suitable replacement was not available and it is a great additive as far as durability goes. The price we pay for that durability is just too high however and manufactures were forced to discover alternatives by government mandate.
If you have a home built after 1978 it is unlikely to have lead based paint but it is still a possibility. There were still supplies of lead based product being used in the early eighties. I’ve personally tested a home in 1982 that had lead paint.
Lead in paint enters the body in primarily two ways. Breathing in lead dust and from ingestion. Children are often exposed by ingestion. Eating paint chips. Lead dust poses the biggest threat when sanding is performed on paint containing lead. Sanding during renovation or repainting is the most common.
Testing for lead is very simple. Test kits are available at almost all hardware and paint stores.
There are instructions included with the kit but basically all you do is snap the tube to release the testing chemical and then rub the end on the surface. Since lead may be present below several layers of paint what I do is using a razor knife I cut down into the paint film and then do the test on that cut area. Red indicates lead. With most test kits the brighter the red the higher the percentage of lead.
If you have a positive test don’t panic. Millions of homes have lead paint. Doing the test is the first step towards dealing with the problem. Mitigating the threat that lead paint poses is best left to professionals. At The Painting Company we have done complete lead paint removal and the less expensive lead encapsulation. Encapsulation is sealing and coating the lead paint with another coating.