Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Dealing With Lead Paint

The game of maintaining a house has changed.  We have to take caution and be responsible for our actions.  There was a time where products were used for longevity and protection, despite their known hazards to people and the environment.  But people and kids were getting sick and litigation and legislation steps in.  I am of course talking about the dreaded lead.



Lead goes as far back as people manipulating metals.  It is an extremely versatile metal used in everything from batteries, to plumbing and solder, ammunition, gasoline, radiation shields, crystal and flint glass, alloys, insecticides, pottery glazes, and of course, paint.  RI has particularly high levels of lead in buildings for two reasons, the age of our building stock and proximity to harsh, rapidly changing weather.  Lead paint was the great for protection, especially on windows.  And while its use and concentration has diminished, it is still allowed in many products, even paint.



Lead becomes toxic through ingestion and vapor inhalation.  It is a cumulative poison, where long term exposure in the home or workplace can cause irreversible effects. In adults, lead affects the gut, central nervous system, sexual performance and causes anemia. For children, lead can affect learning, hearing, create behavioral problems, and harm the brain, kidneys, and other organs.



The goal is to reduce exposure to particles and vapors.  Lead is all around us, on and in houses, in ALL dirt, on old and some new toys, in food, and water.  So how do you control it without covering yourself, kids and house in plastic wrap?



Ingested lead particles can pass through the body without being absorbed, depending on how much and what you eat. Empty stomachs absorb more lead full stomachs.  A diet rich in iron, calcium, phosphorous and zinc can prevent the absorption of lead into the blood stream, as well as reduce the concentration of lead in the body.



At Work

If you work with lead containing materials and do not take precautions, you are poisoning yourself and everyone else in your life.  Lead turns to vapor at 900 degrees (most heat guns can be up to 1200 degrees), where your skin, eyes and your lungs absorb the lead.  If you are creating dust, wear protective equipment, disposable coveralls, or change you clothes and keep them separate.  Getting into you vehicle with dusty clothes means anyone else getting in will become contaminated.  Wash your hands.


At Home

Lead concentrations in manufactured products were significantly reduced in 1978, so most houses built before then contain lead.  But don’t freak out yet.  Lead paint is considered a hazard if lead containing surfaces are:

  • Rubbing
  • Have impact
  • Chipping
  • Peeling
  • Chalking
  • Alligatoring



The laws get a bit crazy, for good reason.  By law, some buildings have to be Lead Safe and Lead Free, but most single family, owner occupied houses do not.  But people can be ignorant, irresponsible, and reckless, so laws have to be in place.  The laws make you think about dust and the effects of it.  But workers still throw it around using sanders, messy demo, blowing fans during work, scraping paint and not containing it, or just plain don’t clean a house.  Its then lead particles get everywhere and the slow poisoning starts. 


What to do

  • Follow and understand the laws.
  • Eat well and often.
  • Wash hands before eating, smoking or handing suspect objects.
  • Encapsulate(paint) failing surfaces.
  • Reduce friction and impact.  Basically stop paint from rubbing or falling off.  That does not mean you have to throw away windows and doors.
  • Wet clean window wells each spring.
  • Wet mop often and use a HEPA home vac.  Do not sweep when lead hazards are known.
  • Remove or clean carpets, especially if renovation work has been done.
  • Do not plant food or have kids play right next to the house.  That’s where lead paint falls after all.


We all grew up with it and many managed to stay healthy.  Why?  Keep a tidy and clean home.  Repair and refinish failing paint.  Eat well.  And get an annual lead level blood test.  It’s that easy.

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