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Frequently Asked Questions


Q. Why should I be concerned about lead-based paint if I live in a pre-1978 house ?

Lead was commonly used in residential household paint (and some varnishes or stains) prior to this date, particularly before 1950. Lead-based paint, when present, is more commonly found on the exterior of a house then the interior. Intact and undisturbed, lead-based paint is relatively safe. However, when homes are:

  • repainted where sanded, scrapping, stripping or cleaning take place prior to painting

  • remodeled where cutting, burning, sawing, dismantling, or any other penetrating activity occurs

  • used as they were intended with opening and closing of doors, windows, cabinets, etc.

  • painted where weathering produces flaking, chipping, peeling, or precipitating paint or dust

lead-based paint chips, lead-laden dust, or lead-contaminated soil may be generated.  Although adults can get lead-poisoned, young children are at the greatest risk. Their exploratory behavior, proximity to the ground in crawling, playing, etc., constant hand-to-mouth activity, and rapidly developing physical and mental growth all contribute to their high risk.

Also, if you sell or lease a pre-1978 housing unit, federal law requires the execution of a Lead Disclosure form to the buyer or tenant prior to execution of a contract. Some mortgage companies also require that a lead-based paint inspection be done of pre-1978 property before loan approval.


Q. Is lead based-paint still being made ?

Lead-based paint (above .06 %) was banned, in the U.S., from residential household paint in 1978 by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. It is still available in some industrial, commercial, marine, and hobby (e.g. artists paints) applications as a paint or coating.

Q. How do I get my house tested for lead-based paint ?

Contact a qualified, certified Lead Inspector to discuss what type of testing and/or inspection would be appropriate. Certification should be from the State of N.C. The Public Health Pest Management (PHPM) program does not provide lead testing upon request. There are over-the-counter testing kits, which can be purchased at hardware stores, by Internet, etc.

These kits generally involve either collecting a paint chip or dust wipe and sending it off to a laboratory for analysis or a kit where the user (e.g. homeowner) does a test themselves by applying a swab or chemical to a paint chip observing a color change to indicate the absence or presence of some unknown amount of lead. There are limitations and drawbacks to both these types of kits.


Q. Where is a young child most likely to become exposed to lead ?

For young children, the greatest exposure to lead likely comes from lead-laden dust generated by:

  1. areas subject to friction, impact, or binding (windows, doors, or stairs) or

  2. natural or artificial disturbance of lead-based paint surfaces (flaking, chipping, peeling paint)

For example, the opening and closing of window sashes can generate high levels of lead-laden dust if the window jamb or sash was painted with lead-based paint. Even if the window was subsequently painted over w/ non-lead paint (e.g. latex), dust will still collect on horizontal surfaces in the home, such as window sills and wells and the floors below them.


Q. Are there other sources of lead in a home which may be hazardous ?

Yes. Older housing may contain water lines where lead solder was used at pipe joints or even piping which may contain lead itself. In 1986, the use of lead solder was banned in the U.S. lead solder was banned by the EPA.  Also, some stains or varnishes may also contain, making abrasive stripping of hardwood floors, cabinets, or doors a potential hazard.

Other household sources of lead can include:

  • soil contaminated from lead-based paint

  • vinyl miniblinds

  • hobby materials such as fishing weights or brass items

  • old unsealed bathtubs

Q. How can I tell if my child is lead poisoned?

The only sure way to know is to have your pediatrician or other healthcare provider do a blood lead test. The initial test is usually a simple finger stick procedure.


Q. What can I do to prevent my child from getting exposed to lead?

If you live in a pre-1978 home or your child frequently visits one, awareness and simple house-cleaning measures can prove effective to minimize exposure. These could include:

  • Removing any paint chips from windows, doors, floors, etc. as well as from around the outside of the house
    and repainting these areas as appropriate

  • Regular cleaning of horizontal surfaces, such as and floors, windowsills, counters, etc. with warm soapy water

  • If windows contain lead-based paint, do not open until corrected

  • Place furniture in front of lead-based paint containing areas

  • Covering bare soil areas with 6 inches of hardwood mulch or planting a vegetative barrier, such as grass

  • Removing vinyl mini-blinds if you're not sure they are "lead-free" and replace with non-leaded blinds or other type of window cover

  • Before beginning any paint disturbing activity, have the area or surface tested for lead

Several brochures and booklets, which can be obtained through your health department, provide excellent guidelines for interim and longer lasting remediation of lead poisoning hazards.

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