LEAD IN YOUR HOME

FAQs – Homeowners & Tenants

What do you want to know?

How do I know if I have lead paint in my home?

If your home was built before 1960, then chances are that there may be lead paint, particularly if you see very thick coats of paint, with the original coat still be buried deep.  The next twenty years saw a reduction in leaded paint, so it is still possible to find it in these homes.  It is almost impossible to identify lead paint visually, so testing is the only way to be sure; this can be done with a chemical marker or taking a paint sample for laboratory analysis

Note that if there is lead paint in a building then there could be lead present in dust containing small chips of paint, caused by everyday wear and tear.  This can be tested with dust wipes, analysed in a laboratory. 

Which paints contain lead?

A lot of paints manufactured before 1960 had added lead for greater durability, improved drying and colouring.  Manufacturers mostly phased out adding lead by the 1980s, but some specialist paints still contain high lead levels, which would only be for certified professionals.  However even paints manufactured after 1980 may still have trace amounts of lead, that weren’t added, although these are not considered a hazard.  

It is almost impossible to identify lead paint visually, so testing is the only way to be sure; this can be done with a chemical test kit or by taking a paint sample for laboratory analysis.

How is lead absorbed?

Lead is taken into the body mainly by Ingestion, Inhalation, but for lead alkyls or naphthenates by Skin Absorption.

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But in everyday life the most likely method of uptake is by ingestion ie hand to mouth contact and so children are most at risk, as they tend to put things in their mouths and suck their fingers. This could include flakes of paint or lead in accumulated dust.
Any building work that could disturb lead paint might create dust, which could then be inhaled, or worse still fumes caused by heat treating lead paint.

How do you measure lead in your body?

Lead concentration within the blood is the universally accepted measurement and is recorded as micro gams per decilitre of blood (µg/dl); a decilitre (1/10th of litre) is a little less than half a cup, although the test is for a much smaller sample. A simple blood test from a GP will return a result in a matter of days. However unlike the USA there is no active screening programme in place in the UK.

Who does lead affect the most?

Pregnant women are the most at risk as lead in their bodies is readily taken up by the foetus than calcium. Lead can also be passed on in mother’s milk. Women of reproductive age should be aware of this, as they could accumulate lead long before a pregnancy. Young children are at high risk as their bodies will also take up lead in preference to calcium. Lead tends to build up in the teeth and bones, and is only excreted slowly by the body.

How do I clear up after working?

> Wipe down surfaces with a damp cloth

> Take care when sweeping not to raise the dust 

> Use only a HEPA vacuum to hoover up any loose material

> Bag everything up and put in bin; if it’s a large volume consult on its disposal

> Wash hands thoroughly afterwards 

Looking to find out about lead health risks?

Lead is highly toxic and widespread in our environment. There is no safe level of lead!