It is safe to live in a house with lead paint IF the paint is showing no signs of deterioration. We do, however, encourage you to read the entire article to better understand why we don’t think that the answer is quite that simple.
That is the very brief answer to the question, and we entirely understand if that is what you came here to find, and you found it. The issue about the matter is a little bit more complicated, though.
While it may be safe to live in the home, if the paint doesn’t have any cracks in it, are you really sure that that’s the case? Are you sure that the paint that was put there more than 40 years ago doesn’t show signs of aging, because it has somehow miraculously been able to survive for that long?
While there may be instances of that, it sure isn’t all that common that paint that old is still entirely in good shape today, and even if the interior paint is, is it also the case with the exterior paint?
Has the exterior paint really managed to be able to withstand more than 40 years of beating? Constant wind, occasional rain, probably varying temperatures, and more. Chances are that the exterior paint has started showing signs of aging, and while it may be higher quality paint that is used outside, there are also limitations to how long the paint can take a beating before it will inherently have issues showing.
What happens when the exterior paint starts showing issues, while the interior paint may in fact still be in very good condition? The exterior paint is probably the first one that will start being an issue, and while you may have thought that it is okay, because you’re not having to deal with an inside issue, the reality is that you might just want to reconsider that position and find a test kit that is able to actually tell you whether you have dangerous paint installed on the outside of your home or not.
While we’re at it, we also want to make sure that you read a different article that we published not all too long ago, that talks about a related topic – whether all homes built before 1978 actually have lead paint in them.
If you’re already in a situation where you have tested your home, and the results came back negative, you may be happy with the result.
However, there may also be a chance that you didn’t actually do enough testing. While it’s the unfortunate truth, it’s still the truth. The reality of the matter is that you can’t simply test one surface and have it be the result that you’re going with. While you might not want to test every single surface, that is how you actually get the reliable results that you were looking for.
Just because a paint might have been used in the kitchen, doesn’t mean that it’s the same paint that was used when the bathroom was brought up to date a few years later. If you were to remodel your home today, would you even know what paint was used in the room that was last remodeled? Although some people may keep paint in their basement, hoping to use it at a later point, the nature of homes is that it’s very dynamic. People move around, and that also means that a lot of different stakeholders have had a say in which type of paint was used on the walls. Different stakeholders may have meant that back when the home was built, and the contractor ran out of the batch of paint that they were using, another type of paint may have been substituted for that better type of paint, unknown to the home’s owners.
And woila, since the contractor ran out of the initial type of paint, the subsequent choice ended up not being quite as good as the first one, and the same safety precautions weren’t necessarily followed at that time.
The contractor, quite frankly, might have just wanted to be done with the project, and as with so many other projects, this one was quoted as a finished project, rather than having the homeowners go out and finding each individual bucket of paint.
Since they didn’t want to shell out additional money on safer choices, perhaps a corner was cut. A corner that meant that the slightly more expensive paint wasn’t chosen, even though it should have been by the contractor, but they figured that no one would realize. And even if someone did in fact realize, it would be too late to do anything about it. Perhaps 10 years later, someone would have realized that the paint didn’t age quite like the rest of the home, but who is to say that the contractor would even be around at that time to remedy the situation?
The paint that was rather chosen was one that contained lead paint.
So, you’re now in a reality where you have different rooms, ones that may have been updated at different times throughout the various decades, and who even knows by how many different contractors?
Even if it so does happen that the contractor is still around who initially built the home, who can reasonably ensure you that they could have been contacted to come back and deal with the situation that many years later, and that it was properly abated at that point. Do you have records that indicate that?
So, we have now established that it is very unlikely that you are entirely sure you know whether or not there is lead in the paint of your home, that is without having tested every single surface there, but the reality is even more complicated than that.
Although the paint in the home may be safe, and has somehow managed to not deteriorate over the last 40 years, the outside paint has, and while it may not be quite as obvious as to why that is an issue as when there’s inside paint that is an issue, what happens is that the deteriorating outside paint lets lead dust particles fall onto the ground, where they can now contaminate in various ways. It may be that it is only lying on the top of the ground, but there is also another possibility that is very likely.
The other possibility is that you occasionally have the windows open to the outside on a nice summer day, and that lead dust that is being released is now not just landing on the ground, but it is rather entering the house with the breeze.
A breeze that could have detrimental consequences on your family’s health, while in fact you were simply trying to do something good. We’ve all been told that you should go outside and get some fresh air, and although that’s true, if opening up the windows means that you are bringing in a bunch of lead particles, that is a major issue.
While the interior paint turned out to be in good condition, showing no signs of aging, the exterior paint, on the other hand, had all sorts of cracks and other signs of deterioration which ultimately meant lead dust was still entering your home. All of that happened in your pursuit to bring some of that summer or spring air inside.
While opening up the windows may be one of those things that you thought you could easily do, and that it would have positive health effects, by improving the air quality in your home, it could do the opposite. That is, however, not the only way in which deteriorating exterior paint could be affecting you and your family.
If your family is much like the standard American family, and you have kids, there is even a bigger risk that you could be exposed, while you thought you weren’t.
Remember how we mentioned that the problematic lead could be showing its ugly face by contaminating the soil around your home? Well, if you are like the average American family and you have an interest in raising independent kids, one of the activities that you could be using in order to foster such behavior might be to introduce them to the culinary world. What better way to introduce them to the culinary world while also fostering responsibility than to plant your own vegetable garden behind the house?
An action that you are doing because you want to instill a sense of responsibility in your kids may end up being the reason why their lead levels in their blood is in fact elevated.
While you and your family enjoy spending the Sunday afternoon in the garden taking care of those carrots and tomatoes that you planted, and which you also use for the food that you are cooking every single night, these plants are getting their nutrients from somewhere.
They’re additionally not just getting all the good stuff from the ground, they’re also getting the bad stuff. That means that your tomato plant could be sucking up those lead particles, and in your process of encouraging your kids to eat more vegetables, those deliciously tasting miracles from your backyard are now less so miracles, and more so a reason why your kids may be having issues in school.
What are some of the consequences?
Lead is a horrible material that will have all sorts of bad consequences when it’s entering the body. You’re not talking about a seasonal flu that will affect you for a little bit of time before it passes, and you’re once again feeling great.
No, this is a material that accumulates in your body and stays there your entire life, why you won’t simply be recovering from exposure to it. When you or your kids are exposed, it is a thing that stays there and does the damage that it will inevitably do, and for kids, that means that it can lead to serious consequences in school. In fact, developmental delay and cognitive decline are some of the consequences that can be experienced, why it is recommended that your kids get tested several times through their childhood.
It may seem negligible to do these blood tests for your kids, right? After all, you are making them eat the organically grown vegetables from your backyard, without realizing that those are the exact reasons why they’re facing the difficulties that they’re facing.
While it may not be possible to do much to revert the exposure that has already happened, you showing up on this page and learning about the dangers of lead is a good first step.
It will also be able to guide your future actions, and be able to allow them to live a safer life in the future.
Did you know that even though your home may not have been built before 1978, there’s still a chance that the soil is contaminated, if there was a different house that was built there beforehand? If you are planning on growing vegetables in your garden and want to avoid unnecessary lead exposure, which we recommend, we either encourage you to test the soil, or to make sure that you are using soil that doesn’t have a risk of having been contaminated over time.
It’s easy to buy a bunch of soil with the intention of planting your aspiring vegetable garden there rather than having to rely on the soil in your garden not having been contaminated over time with various pollutants, not even just limited to the possibility that it contains dangerous levels of lead in it. When you are buying high quality soil from a reliable supplier, you’re making sure that you aren’t accidentally exposing your family to a bunch of danger, unknowingly.
So, who is especially at risk?
Although we would love to say that there aren’t specific people in the population that are more at risk than others, reality is that there is a lot of public housing that has unfortunately been built at a time where lead was added to paint because it increased durability, and where the health of the inhabitants was perhaps not the primary driver when it came to making decisions on which materials to use for the construction. Therefore, if you do live in public housing, we very much encourage you to take steps to figure out when it was built and make sure that the necessary testing was done, especially when paint is starting to show issues.
While this article may have ended up being a little bit extensive, and perhaps significantly longer than you had intended, hopefully you now know that lead paint in a home isn’t just something that you can ignore. The health consequences are real. Testing is important, both inside and outside, and of the soil as well, depending on the things that you are planning on using it for.
Are you a landlord?
If you are a landlord, there are also other things that you should be making sure you are doing. Although you may be ready to accept the risk of living in the house yourself, we do recommend that you have a contractor come by with either the 3M lead tests that we sell or an XRF testing device, so that you can ensure that you are in compliance.
When you are a landlord renting out a piece of property, the question at hand isn’t just whether or not you feel sufficiently safe living there, but also whether or not you are in fact providing the necessary information to a potential tenant that they are required to have.
Our recommendations are always that you reach out to your local building community and figure out what their requirements are since there are certain states that are a lot more strict than others. It is not uncommon for landlords to get fined significant amounts of money when they don’t stay in compliance with the relevant laws. What that could mean is that you have a rental property that you are renting out and that you are making a nice amount of money from, but without knowing about it, you end up getting a fine for $10,000 in 5 years when your state changes their focus on going after people that have not been complying. Yes, that definitely does happen. You could even end up with a fine as large as $37,500 if you choose not to be in compliance.
Some landlords may also find pleasure in doing a lot of the work themselves, believing that it is a great way in order to save money on a project. Sure, you can make a lot of money if you are buying a piece of property that is perhaps a little bit older and you choose to put the work into it which will massively increase its value. That’s great! And while you may be able to do a lot of the work yourself if you plan on living in it, the RRP rules may in fact be different if you are doing it with the intention of making money on the home improvement. In the situation where you aren’t living in the house yourself, it is very hard to argue that you were simply doing it without the financial gain being your main motivation.
Why would you take the project upon yourself in the first place if your intention wasn’t to make money off of renting out the place that you own? There is always an inherent risk associated with the purchase of property, and on top of that there is the question is whether or not you are ready to take the responsibility upon yourself to deal with all the trouble you will be facing when you’re a landlord. Perhaps you end up renting out your place to someone who has difficulties paying the rent on time, and as a consequence you are having to find the money for the mortgage somewhere else.
Being a landlord means financial gains
As you can probably understand from the previous section that we outlined, it is a very hard project to argue that you weren’t putting in an entirely new kitchen into your rental property when the EPA comes knocking on your door asking for documentation for the various things that have been improved. If you are a landlord who enjoys doing a lot of the home improvement projects yourself, it is important that you also know some of the possible implications that stem from being a landlord. If you only own homes that were built after 1978, you can go ahead and keep doing the home improvement on them that you were planning on doing. That is, of course ensuring that you have the necessary licenses that may otherwise be required. But at least, if you own a home that was built after 1978, you won’t have the burden of having to document the testing for lead when you are upgrading your unit.
Is this a real concern you should be thinking about?
Being involved in the lead testing industry, we often come across people asking us whether or not they really should be concerned with the wording of the RRP regulations, and what they may mean. Whether you’re a landlord or a contractor, it may be tempting to ask yourself whether you really should be concerned about the probability of getting fined by the EPA, and whether you should just be dealing with the situation if that ever happens.
Our answer is always a resounding yes. You should be concerned about it as the consequences of ignoring the rules can financially cripple you. While you may not think that it is likely that the EPA will come to the town that you live in and start requiring documentation from landlords and homeowners, there is always a chance that it happens.
Another more likely scenario is that it isn’t the EPA that comes knocking on your door because they simply chose that it would be fun. Another situation that many people forget about is that it is very likely for a tenant to actually report a landlord for negligence, or if there are some of the fundamental rights that have been ignored. Yes, you need to ensure that you live up to both the federal and state requirements when it comes to informing homeowners of the potential for lead exposure.
If you are a landlord and you want to further look into these things yourself, we recommend that you keep reading on the EPA’s website. While there are situations where it may be safe to live in a house that has lead paint, there are also other situations where you really sure ensure that you have done the necessary testing, whether it is done with an XRF machine or with the lead testing kits that we offer.