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Lead Based Paint


Lead Based Paint or simply Lead Paint is paint that contains lead. Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines lead-based paint as any “paint or surface coating containing more than 1mg of lead / cm2 of paint.” This can include paints, stains, varnishes, shellac and wood floor finishes.


Why was Lead Paint used?

Lead was added to paint to improve the quality of residential and commercial paint. Lead paints were:

  • More durable,
  • More abrasion resistant,
  • Moisture resistant,
  • More fade resistant,
  • More washable and cleanable,
  • Colors were more vibrant, and
  • Dried faster.

Simply put, for decades lead paint was some of the best quality, most cost-effective paint available.


When was Lead Paint used?

Lead paint has been used since Colonial Times. It was used on the US Capital, the White House and historic homes such as George Washington’s Mount Vernon. It was endorsed and specified by federal, state and local governments and agencies until the 1970’s.

Sales of lead paint peaked in 1922 and began to be phased out by many paint manufacturers in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Sherwin-Williams removed lead from interior paint in 1937 and exterior paint in 1941. Dunn Edwards removed lead from paint in 1954. WP Fuller Paint Co. removed lead from their paints in 1958.

In 1951, the city of Baltimore, MD banned the used of interior lead paint in residential housing. By 1955, the paint manufacturing industry voluntarily agreed to no longer use or recommend the use of lead paint in residential interiors. By the early 1970’s, lead paint was effectively no longer in use in exterior paints.

In 1971, the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act (LBPPA) was passed banning the use of lead paint in federally funded housing. January 1, 1978 the Consumer Product Safety Commission effectively banned the use of lead paint nationwide.


How Common is Lead Paint?

The older the home, the more likely it is to have lead paint. According to the EPA you will find lead paint in:

  • 86% of homes built before 1940
  • 66% of homes built between 1940-1959
  • 24% of homes built between 1960-1977

In our construction company, we have tested over 40,000 homes built before 1978 and found that approximately 1 in 20 homes built in the 1970’s have lead paint where we were working.

In 1990 it was estimated that nearly 2/3 of residential housing across the country contained lead paint. By 2008 that number had dropped to approximately 1/3.


Health Effects of Lead Paint

Lead is a neurotoxin and young children, under six years of age, are most at risk because their brains and bodies are still developing. Some of the health effects in children are:

  • Reduced IQ,
  • Reading and learning difficulties,
  • Behavior problems,
  • Speech and language problems, and
  • Nervous system damage.


Pregnant women are also at risk because the lead can be passed from the mother to the fetus.

The biggest challenge today is that lead poisoning is commonly misdiagnosed and attributed to other causes.  Common symptoms in children include:

  • Head or stomach aches,
  • Irritability,
  • Fatigue,
  • Loss of appetite, and
  • Joint or muscle pain.


How Common is Lead Poisoning?

Lead poisoning is becoming less and less common.

  • In 1980 – 88.3% of children had blood lead levels (BLL) over 10mcg/dL
  • By 2008 – Less than one-half of one percent of children had BLL over 10mcg/dL
  • In 2013 – 0.35% of children in the State of California had BLL over 9.5mcg/dL


In 2012 the Center for Disease Control (CDC) cut the “reference level of concern” for children under age six by 50%, lowering it from 10mcg/dL of blood to 5mcg/dL. Today, the CDC recommends chelation therapy as a treatment for childhood lead poisoning only in cases over 45mcg/dL.

Because the top cause of childhood lead poisoning is remodeling, renovation, repair and painting on April 22, 2010 the EPA’s Lead Safety for Renovation Repair and Painting Rules went into effect.


What else would you like to know about Lead Paint?

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

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