About 37 million American homes and apartments have some interior lead paint on walls and woodwork. Any house built before 1978 — the year when most types of lead paint were withdrawn from the market in the U.S. — may contain lead paint. If lead paint is present on friction surfaces (for example, window sash), or if any lead paint is flaking or deteriorated, any children under the age of 6 or pregnant women who live in the house are at risk.
Anyone engaged in remodeling activities has an obligation to learn the basic facts about lead paint, for two reasons: if you are remodeling an occupied house, your activities may be endangering the health of the occupants. And if you are a professional remodeler working in other people’s homes, ignoring lead paint dangers is illegal.
Too many poisoned children
The dangers of lead paint are real. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 250,000 American children have elevated blood lead levels.
Residents of cities with a high proportion of older homes are particularly at risk; according to the New York Times, 14.2% of all children living in Cleveland and 23.1% of all children living in Allentown, Pennsylvania, have elevated levels of lead in their blood (more than 5 micrograms per deciliter).
What homeowners need to know
If your house was built before 1978, you should assume that the paint in your house (both exterior and interior) contains lead, unless the paint has been tested and found to be lead-free. Almost all homes built before 1950 have some lead-based paint.
Although it’s possible for adults or children above the age of 6 to be poisoned by lead, young children and pregnant women are the most vulnerable.
If you live in an older home and you have young kids, what to you need to worry about?