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How to Test for Lead Paint in Your Home


When working in pre-1978 buildings the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires certain precautions to be taken under penalty of fines exceeding $37,500 per violation, per day.

Since 2010 any individual, company, firm, organization or agency that works, or even bids on work, in pre-1978 buildings is required to:

  1. Have a Certified Renovator responsible for each and every job,
  2. Be registered with the EPA or State as a Lead Certified Firm,
  3. Use Lead Safe Work Practices when disturbing lead paint,
  4. Educate customers and/or occupants before doing any work, and
  5. Document all precautions taken to minimize, contain and clean-up the job site.


Why Test for Lead Paint

Because testing for lead paint can eliminate your risk of fines. If you, as a Lead Certified Renovator, test for lead paint and the test results are negative…None of the Rules Apply and You Have No Risk of Being Fined!

In our construction company, we have tested over 40,000 homes for lead paint and the results were staggering. Despite the EPA’s claims:

  • Less than 45% of the pre-1978 homes had lead where we were working.
  • Nearly 75% of the homes built in the 1960’s did not have lead paint where we were working.
  • Over 90% of the homes built in the 1970’s did not have lead paint where we were working.


That means we were able to eliminate our liability and risk of fines on the majority of pre-1978 buildings because they did not have lead paint where we were working. In other words:

Testing + No Lead Paint = No EPA Fines


Who can Test for Lead Paint?

The only person allowed to test for lead paint is a Lead Certified Renovator. In the certification class you will actually do a lead test using an EPA approved test kit and document the results on the paperwork we give you.


Workers, whether trained or not, and non-certified individuals are not allowed to test for lead.


How to Test for Lead Paint

The fastest, easiest, least expensive test for Lead Paint is the 3M LeadCheck® Swabs. These swabs are a sodium rhodizonate based test that when applied to a surface containing lead paint turn pink or red in as little as 15 seconds.

To use the LeadCheck® Swabs to test:

  1. Score the surface that you will be testing with a box knife or similar. Make sure to test in an inconspicuous area and cut through all layers of paint clear down to the substrate. Wipe off the blade to avoid cross contamination.
  2. Squeeze the LeadCheck® Swab at the Crush Point A and B. Squeeze just hard enough to crack the vials without rupturing the tube.
  3. Shake all the liquid down to the swab tip.
  4. Squeeze one drop of the mixed liquid on to the included lead confirmation card but do not allow the swab to touch the card to avoid cross contamination. If the test is working, the drop on the card will turn red. If it does not turn red, the swab is defective.
  5. Rub the tip of the swab on the score mark for no more than 30 seconds. If the paint is lead, the tip of the swab will turn pink or red. If the tip of the swab is yellow, gold or orange the test is negative.
  6. Document your results on the Test Kit Form you received in the Lead Certified Renovator Certification Class and give a copy to the customer.

If the test is negative, and the majority will be, your job is exempt from the EPA Lead RRP Rules and you do not need to take any further precautions.

Make sure you keep your Test Kit Form for three years because the EPA and/or State can come back and audit your records.

Remember, the only person who can test for lead paint is a Lead Certified Renovator. To become Certified, you simply attend a One Day, Lead Paint Certification Class in Lead Safe Work Practices. Upon completion you, and any other of your team who attend, will be Lead Certified Renovators and able to both test and oversee jobs in pre-1978 buildings.


What else would you like to know about Lead Paint?

What is Lead Based Paint
What is Lead Certification?
What is EPA Certification?
What is Lead Abatement?
How to Remove Lead Paint
What is RRP Certification?

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