This is Day 25 of the Green in 365 series!
If you live in an older home like we do, there could be a toxic chemical lurking in a place that is easily accessible to your children; your window sills, frames and tracks.
If your house was built before 1978 it is highly likely that lead paint was used somewhere in your home. Lead paint that is in good condition and not peeling, chipping or cracking is usually not hazardous.
Windows, though, are especially prone to cracking and chipping paint because of opening and closing them, and the exposure to outdoor air, which leads to lead paint chips exposed and lead dust being released into the air in your home. And many window sills are right at a child’s height for playing or looking out the window, and being exposed to the lead based paint.
Photo by Jason Bolonski
Lead is especially dangerous for children, whose brains and bodies are still developing, and can lead to severe issues like brain damage as well as slower growth and anemia, and for pregnant woman whose exposure can effect her developing baby. (source)
I have to admit that this is one issue that scares and overwhelms me, and that we have yet to take action on in our home. We do have old windows with paint that is chipping, but I’ve always assumed that the paint is not lead based because I can see several layers of paint on the windows underneath the paint that is chipping. And when my son was tested for lead at one year old, his levels came back within the normal range. But, we shouldn’t just assume, for the health and safety of our family, we need to take some action.
If you are concerned that your home contains lead paint, you can start with purchasing a at home lead testing kit, there are several brands that are less than $20, to test for lead around your home, but be aware that these kits are not 100% accurate, and cannot test for lead below the surface. If you suspect that you have lead paint in your home, and/or your at home test comes back positive for lead, the best thing to do is hire a certified lead testing and removal service.
It’s also very important to think about lead paint before doing any remodeling or renovating your home, so be sure to hire EPA Lead-Safe certified contractors who can reduce the risk of lead exposure with safe working practices and thorough clean up.
Keeping your home well-maintained and dealing with any peeling or cracking paint is the best way to minimize your family’s exposure to lead paint in your home. For more information please visit the EPA’s lead poisoning site.
I know what we’ll be doing this weekend; getting a home test kit to get started testing our home for lead!
Please share your experience with us! Have you tested your home for lead paint before? How have you dealt with deteriorating lead paint in your home?
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This is definitely an issue that has been on my mind a lot in the past. In December, we bought a house built in 1954. During our inspections, all the paint seemed to be in good condition. But because some of the windows were painted shut, per our contract, the former homeowners had to have at least one operable window per room. They accomplished this by using a crowbar on the frames, chipping the paint. I was totally freaked when we moved in because we have a 2 year old and there were paint chips on the sills!
But I did some research and feel much better about the whole situation. This is what I learned: although lead paint was officially banned in 1978, its use was phased out much, much earlier than that. My dad, who worked in a paint department of a major store in the mid-60s, said that by the early 60s people were switching to acrylic (latex) paint. Prior to latex, they used oil based, and finally, lead before that. Lead paint just wasn’t that popular mid-century because it was a pain to use.
At least in our house, we can tell there is only one, maybe two coats of paint on all the trim and then we can see bare wood. Again, when doing research, I found that the trend of painting woodwork white (or other colors) didn’t become popular until the late 1970s, early 1980s. Prior to then, it wasn’t considered good sense because it devalued the house. Just by looking, we can tell the paint on our window sills and trim is just too new to be remotely lead based. Lead based paint has a very tell-tale appearance, it was chalky and greenish. It just didn’t come in a rainbow of colors like we have today.
So like you said, testing is the sure fire way to make sure there is no lead in your paint. And I definitely wouldn’t do any remodeling without have an expert check for lead and/or do lead abatement. It’s just not worth it. But in our case, I feel reasonably reassured that if there is ANY lead paint at all in our house, it might be on the walls, which have been painted over at least a dozen times. A lot of this depends on when a house was built, of course.
Hope that helps, and I’ve been really enjoying the Green in 365 posts!
Chelsea McDowell says
I live in a very old Chicago apartment and have a 6 month old baby girl. Our whole apartment has probably been painted over 5 dozen times… and chips a lot. I think it’s time to test. Thanks for this post.
Stunning quest there. What occurred after?
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