- Why is lead in paint?
Lead is used to make paint last longer. The amount of lead in paint was reduced in 1950 and further reduced again in 1978. Houses built before 1950 are very likely to contain lead paint while houses built after 1950 will have less lead in the paint. House paint today has very low levels of lead. Lead-based paint is the most common source of lead poisoning in children.
- How much is too much?
The danger of the lead paint depends on:
- the amount of lead in the painted surface
- the condition of the paint, and
- the amount of paint that your child ingests.
Lead levels in paint are measured in parts per million (ppm). The greater the amount of lead in paint, the higher the ppm number. The federal government currently allows 600 ppm of lead in household paint. 5,000 ppm or over is a high amount of lead in paint. If paint is peeling or chipping, a child can easily eat it during normal play.
- How does the lead get from the paint into my child?
Over many years, painted surfaces crumble into household dust. This dust clings to toys, fingers, and other objects that children normally put into their mouths. This is the most common way that lead gets into your child. Children also get lead into their bodies by chewing on lead painted surfaces. Some young children eat paint that is peeling or chipping.
- What do I do if my home has been painted with lead-based paint?
There are many dangers involved in removing lead paint from your home. Every member of your family can be poisoned if removal is done incorrectly. There are three ways to make the lead paint in your home less dangerous. The first two below are the easiest ways to handle lead paint. They should be considered first.
- Replace it.
Replacing lead painted objects means removing the object from the house and replacing it with a new, lead-free item. For example, a door may be removed by the hinges and replaced with a new, safe door. Do not burn any lead painted item you remove from your home. Wrap the item in heavy plastic and keep it away from your children. This takes the lead out of your home, and it does not create a lead dust.
- Cover it.
It is best to cover surfaces that cannot be replaced, such as walls or floors, with a long-lasting, tough material like sheet rock, paneling, or floor tiles. Because covering does not get the lead paint out of your home, walls and floors that are newly covered must be kept in good condition. Repainting with new paint or hanging wallpaper is not a permanent method of covering lead paint. If the new paint or wallpaper peels, the lead paint will be exposed again.
- Replace it.
A Note About Public Housing
If the lead levels in the paint in your home are 5,000 ppm or more and you live in Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-owned housing, HUD must make your home safe from lead paint.
Testing Your Child
Children aged nine months through five years are at the greatest risk
for lead poisoning. Most children with lead poisoning do not look
or act sick. Ask your doctor to perform a blood lead test on your
children. This is the only way to know if they are being lead
poisoned. Your doctor should explain the results of the test to
you. Most children will have a test result below 10 pg/dl. If
you or your doctor need more information about lead poisoning,
call the local health department.
If you have Medi-Cal, your regular doctor or clinic can order the blood tests to check for lead poisoning. Many private health insurance policies will also cover the cost of this test. Whether or not your family has insurance, your children may qualify for free health examinations through your local Child Health and Disability Prevention (CHDP) program. To find out if your child is eligible for CHDP testing, call your local health department.
For more information about lead in paint, call your local health department.