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Lead in Older Homes


If you are interested in buying a home that was built prior to 1978, be aware that its interior and exterior
surfaces may have lead paint, a toxic metal that can cause serious health problems if ingested or lead
dust is inhaled. This hazard is of special concern if children are in the home. In 1978 the federal
government took lead paint for use in a home off the market.
Health issues arise when the lead paint starts deteriorating, when lead dust and flakes of lead paint fall
upon surfaces such as window sills, counter tops, and floors, as well as on children’s toys, clothes, and
Friction points, such as cabinet or door hinges, in any room of the home can cause lead dust to fall.
Children can easily ingest it when playing. Because lead is sweet tastng, the hazard of lead in a home
with young children becomes more lethal. Peeling paint on the home’s exterior is always a concern for
similar reasons, and it can contaminate the soil. The main risks for adults comes from breathing lead
dust. Lead also poses a threat for unborn babies. If there is lead in the mother’s system, it can pass to
the fetus and cause premature birth, low birth weight, and brain and nerve damage.
When contracting a home inspection of an older property, it is wise to have the property tested for lead
paint in at least one location. Two types of tests can be administered. One involves the home inspector
using a chemically approved swab. When the swab is applied to the suspected area in the home, the
paint color changes. This test is less invasive and takes less time than the second type of test, in which
the home inspector scrapes off a spoonful of paint flakes or dust and forwards it to a licensed laboratory.
When I inspect an older home, I always test chemically in at least one area of the house. If lead paint is
present, its removal is generally done bya lead abatement company.

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