Lead paint in homes and buildings can present a big concern. Lead paint is the most significant source of lead exposure in the U.S. today. Most buildings built before 1960 contain lead paint, and buildings built as late as 1978 may also contain lead paint.
Lead paint that is in good condition (i.e. not peeling or chipping) generally does not pose a threat and should be left alone. There are certain situations in which lead paint in good condition can be dangerous (for example, when surfaces, such as the frames of a window that is often opened, rub against one another and create dust). Lead paint that is chipping, peeling, or otherwise deteriorating, however, can pose a big threat. People who live or work in buildings with deteriorating lead paint can be exposed to lead dust, which can have many negative impacts on one’s health. Lead exposure affects almost all body systems. High levels of lead can cause comas, convulsions, and even death. Low levels cause damage to the kidneys, brain, central nervous system, and blood cells.
Lead exposure poses a particular threat to fetuses, pregnant women, and young children. Lead exposure in children can lead to lower IQ levels, shorter attention spans, behavioral problems, and delayed physical and/or mental development.
The symptoms of lead poisoning include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, insomnia, fatigue, headache, moodiness, joint and/or muscle aches, anemia, and effects on both male and female reproductive systems. However, these symptoms often begin gradually or do not manifest immediately, so it can be difficult to tell whether you have lead poisoning. Because of this, it is important to know whether you are at risk of exposure to lead.
If you are uncertain about the lead content of deteriorating paint around your home or place of business, seriously consider having it sampled before renovation projects or disturbing the paint. The cost of a test ($25 to $50) per sample is a small price to pay in order to prevent serious health problems.