Until the late seventies, many household paints contained lead. Ingesting lead, even miniscule amounts of dust, can cause health problems, especially for pregnant woman and children.
But if you have lead paint in your home, you can take steps to protect your family.
First, determine whether — and where — you have lead-based paint.
Focus on the areas which can cause the most problems: areas that are already flaking or peeling, particularly ceilings; areas around windows where dust can settle and be disturbed by wind; door trim which can be banged and chipped; and bannisters, a prime temptation at kid’s mouth level.
Have a professional tester come in, or take sample chips from these areas and mail them to a lab. (Contact government health and hazardous waste agencies to find companies which you can hire or which will test your samples.)
If you find lead, here are some ways to correct the problem:
Remove and replace old trim or doors. Keep children away from any work involving lead paint, and avoid air movement from windows and fans. Wear protective clothing and wash after work. Vacuum with an industrial-grade vacuum with a high efficiency air filter.
You can remove items like trim and doors and have them stripped at a facility.
Cover it. If the paint’s in good condition, seal it with pigmented shellac and repaint. Naturally, this is a temporary solution, and should be monitored.
Add a layer of drywall over the existing paint.
Exterior lead paint can be a problem if it flakes and blows in windows or contaminates soil in gardens. A new paint job helps contain it for awhile, and regular maintenance can keep it contained. Scraping should be done on non-windy days and all scrapings should be collected on drop-cloths. Consider professional paint removal.