If your home was built before 1978, it is safest to assume that there is lead-based paint present in your home, which means you should take the precautions discussed below for preventing lead exposure and eliminating lead hazards.
If you want to definitively determine if you have lead paint, you can call a certified lead inspector who can determine the presence and exact location of the lead.
You can also, at a lower cost, buy a lead test kit at a local hardware or home store. These can be a good first step in determining if there is lead present, but directions must be followed precisely.
(Sample Test Kits)
In an older home any repair, painting or renovation project may disturb lead paint and create lead dust that can settle on windowsills, floors, toys, etc. Any possibility of disturbing lead paint, such as scraping or sanding, can create a lead hazard. Fortunately, there are lead-safe practices that can prevent these hazards and protect your and your children's health.
Contractors disturbing surfaces containing lead-based paint in (or on) homes built before 1978 must be certified under the EPA's Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) program and follow lead-safe practices. Before hiring any contractor whose work may disturb painted surfaces (not just painters, but also renovators, electricians, and window installers, to name a few), ask if they are lead-safe certified under the RRP program. If they can't demonstrate that they are, find another contractor. Find an EPA certified Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) firm here.
If you own your home and plan to do renovation, repair or painting work yourself, you are not required to be lead-safe certified. However, it's essential - for your and your family's safety - to follow lead-safe practices. Visit the EPA's website for do-it-yourselfers here, and watch this video on safe practices:
Work that disturbs surfaces containing lead-based paint in (or on) residential rental properties - including common areas - must comply with the EPA's Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) program. This means any contractor hired by a landlord (not just painters, but also renovators, electricians, and window installers, to name a few) must be RRP certified and follow required safe practices. If a landlord chooses to do the work him/herself or through a property manager, they must be RRP certified and follow all required procedures. A landlord's failure to comply can result not only in major health risks for children and adults, but also liability for harm as well as costly civil penalties. Find an RRP certified firm here.
Read more about the federal Renovation, Repair and Painting program (RRP).
Lead hazards can be obvious (peeling, chipping lead-paint) and not-so-obvious (lead-paint on friction surfaces, like cabinets, windows and doors).
If lead hazards are present, the best thing you can do is eliminate them. Find a certified lead-abatement contractor.
Because older buildings with lead are so prevalent in our state, we recommend taking the following precautions for any period of time when lead hazards may be present: