Lead is a naturally occurring element but can cause serious health issues. Originating in nature, lead can also commonly be found in homes. Generally undetectable by any odor, taste, or visual evidence, testing for lead is an important part of homeownership.
What is Lead?
Paint is one of the primary materials that used to contain lead in homes prior to 1978. Lead was added because of its benefits such as faster drying times, increased durability, and a longer shelf life. Pipes are a common carrier of lead that can end up in drinking water as well as soil, some pottery, stained glass, and old furniture. The severe side effects to humans were unknown at that time. Lead is a common byproduct from mining sites, such as the old smelter in Durango which was shut down in 1946.
No matter how it enters the body, the effects of lead can be detrimental. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, exposure can lead to fertility problems, high blood pressure, digestive issues, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems, muscle and joint pain, and harm developing fetuses. Children have much lower tolerances to lead and can experience nervous system and kidney damage, learning disabilities, behavior problems, poor muscle coordination, decreased muscle and bone growth, hearing damage with severe cases including seizures, unconsciousness, and death.
Blood tests are the easiest way to check for lead in the body and are recommended for children 1 and 2 years old and everyone who has been exposed to lead.
Testing & Removal
Getting your home tested for lead is a proactive step that can be done by a certified inspector. Lead based paint becomes a hazard if it’s deteriorating (peeling, chipping, chalking, cracking) because it can travel from the wall into the body more easily once the surface is damaged. Testing can include portable x-ray fluorescence machines and lab tests of paint, dust, and soil samples.
Day-to-day cleaning can limit the amount of lead in a home alongside thoroughly rinsing the cleaning supplies, washing hands often, washing dishes often, and eating nutritious, low-fat high iron and calcium meals to reduce absorption of lead.
If your home has high levels of lead and renovation or repair is necessary, hiring a lead certified abatement company to do the work is required. They will contain the lead, clean up, and dispose of the waste properly while using the needed personal protective equipment. A new coat of lead free paint will create a fresh environment in the home and help contain suspected lead based paint.
Lead in Real Estate
Federal law requires that Sellers must disclose any known information on lead hazards in the home before selling, and any home built before 1978 requires a lead-based paint disclosure. Real estate contracts include specific warnings about lead-based paint. Likewise, landlords must disclose any known information about lead hazards before leases take effect, which require a warning statement as well.
Lead is unfortunately not uncommon in our area due to the location, history, and age of many homes here. Knowing the warning signs and having the resources to test and protect yourself and others is an important precaution. Please let us know if you have questions about lead in your home, recommendations for testing, and how it can affect the buying and selling process.