If My Home Could Contain Lead Paint, How Do I Test for It?
EPA RRP Lead-Based Paint Certification and Safety Laws
As with any new program, most people, home owners and contractors alike, first hearing about the EPA’s Lead Paint Certification program are very skeptical. Yet we find, when they REALLY investigate the issue, they realize that the program is needed to bring awareness those individuals who might inadvertently produce lead poisoning exposure. Today, many people, contractors included, are initially caught off guard and are unaware of the very real health hazards associated with paint containing lead when it’s disrupted. The bottom line, Lead-based paint is hazardous to your health
LEAD PAINT IS LIKE AN ALLIGATOR!
How many people would jump into a neighborhood pond if they knew of an alligator living in it? Yet, many people have jumped into such a pond or have had their dogs drinking water from such a pond, only to find out after it’s too late, that an alligator was living in it. In the world of lead paint…the alligator is paint containing lead, and the pond is a house built prior to 1978. Today, lead-based paint is a major source of lead poisoning for children and can also affect adults. In children, lead poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage and can impair mental functioning. It can retard mental and physical development and reduce attention span. It can also retard fetal development, even at extremely low levels of lead. In adults, it can cause irritability, poor muscle coordination, and nerve damage to the sense organs and nerves controlling the body. Lead poisoning may also cause problems with reproduction (such as a decreased sperm count). It may also increase blood pressure. Thus, young children, fetuses, infants, and adults with high blood pressure are the most vulnerable to the effects of lead.
Children should be screened for lead poisoning
In communities where the houses are old and deteriorating, take advantage of available screening programs offered by local health departments, and have children checked regularly to see if they are suffering from lead poisoning. Because the early symptoms of lead poisoning are easy to confuse with other illnesses, it is difficult to diagnose lead poisoning without medical testing. Early symptoms may include persistent tiredness, irritability, loss of appetite, stomach discomfort, reduced attention span, insomnia, and constipation. Failure to treat children in the early stages can cause long-term or permanent health damage.
How Are People exposed to lead from paint.
Contractors and or individuals involved in home renovation activities can generate lead dust by sanding lead-based paint or by scraping or heating lead-based paint. Eating paint chips is one way young children are exposed to lead. This is not the most common way that consumers, in general, are exposed to lead. Ingesting and inhaling lead dust that is created as lead-based paint “chalks,” chips, or peels from deteriorated surfaces can expose consumers to lead. Walking on small paint chips found on the floor, or opening and closing a painted frame window, can also create lead dust. Other sources of lead include deposits that may be present in homes after years of use of leaded gasoline and from industrial sources like smelting. Lead dust can settle on floors, walls, and furniture. Under these conditions, children can ingest lead dust from hand-to-mouth contact or from food. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air through cleaning, such as sweeping or vacuuming, or by movement of people throughout the house.
How much lead does it take to get lead poisoning?
Only about 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood. What does that mean?
A deciliter is about 1/2 of a cup.
-A packet of sweetener is roughly one gram.
-There are one million micrograms in a gram.
-So, divide the stuff from one packet into one million piles. (Pretend!)
-Now, discard 999,990 of those “piles.”
-Take the remaining 10 piles and mix them into half a cup of liquid.
Now….that’s not much! Microscopic levels of lead metal can impair the health of a human, especially a young developing child.
Q. So…how do you test for Lead-Based Paint and Lead Dust?
A. The EPA Lead Abatement Certification program suggests three lead hazard assessment methods available to homeowners:
Lead-Based Paint Inspection, Risk Assessment and a Lead Hazard Screen. The EPA strongly recommends that you have the testing performed by an EPA RRP Certified Professional. Certified Inspectors may perform Lead-Based Paint Inspections, and Certified Risk Assessors can perform both Lead Risk Assessments as well as Lead Hazard Screens.
Lead-Based Paint Inspection: Generally recommended prior to beginning a renovation in a home built prior to 1978. During the inspection all painted surfaces in the home including varnishes and stains are inventoried and inspected for the presence of lead-based paint. Furniture, dust and soil are not typically tested during an inspection. When the report has been completed, you should have an inventory of all surfaces tested and whether the surfaces contain lead.
Risk Assessment: The lead risk assessment is the most rigorous testing method. This method is highly recommended for those who suspect or have confirmed lead poisoning in family members. Not only are all deteriorated paint surfaces covered in the Inspection reviewed, but dust from children’s rooms, hallways and play areas are tested in addition to soil from children’s play areas. In the event furniture, window sills or molding show bite marks, these surfaces may be tested as well.
Lead Hazard Screening: Recommended for homes and facilities with a low chance of contamination. The Lead Hazard Screening is a scaled down version of the Risk Assessment. Typically, deteriorated paint surfaces are tested, two samples of dust are collected (windows and floors) and soil will not be tested unless there is evidence of paint chips in the soil. A report that shows substantial risks, may require a follow-up with a full-blown Risk Assessment.
Q. How are The Surfaces Tested?
A. Two methods of Lead-Based Paint Testing are recognized by the EPA:
Portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzers and paint chip sampling which is analyzed by a laboratory recognized by EPA’s National Lead Laboratory Accreditation Program.
Portable X-Ray Fluorescence Analyzers (XRFs) A portable XRF measures lead in paint,
usually without damaging the paint. In some instances, the material beneath the paint or curves in paint chips on deteriorated surfaces can affect the lead level readings. In these instances the paint must be removed, and the underlying surface is tested to create a baseline for the painted surface being tested. This is the fastest method for delivering results, although in instances where the testing is inconclusive, paint chip samples will need to be delivered to a laboratory for further testing.
Paint Chip Sampling & Lab Analysis: By using a chisel or scraper, one to four square inches of all layers of paint are removed. Generally, a small layer of the underlying surface (wood, plaster or concrete) is removed with the sample. Following removal of the test material, the surface is repainted to prevent contamination for exposed lead surfaces. The samples are then sent to an EPA NLLAP laboratory for testing. This is the most conclusive method for testing for lead-based paint.
Keep in mind, if your home was built before 1978, and you are planning on renting or selling it, the EPA requires that you provide the test results to your buyers or renters.
To learn more about testing procedures, please visit the EPA’s Lead-Based Paint Safety site and read EPA’s pamphlet on lead paint testing available at http://www.epa.gov