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Considering buying – or already occupying – an older home? Many homes built before 1978 contain lead-based paint that can pose health risks to inhabitants, especially to young children. Lead pipes may also impact water quality. That’s why many buyers choose to test for lead before they make an offer on a home they’re considering.

Where does lead occur?

Lead is not only found in older paints, but also in soil, household dust, and some drinking water. Lead-based paint is considered particularly dangerous to small children, who may breathe in, touch, or consume lead-painted materials or paint chips unknowingly. Lead-based paint and lead exposure have been linked to developmental disabilities as well as brain damage and other health problems. Lead in water is also considered a health risk.

Is lead present?

Generally, sellers are required to disclose their knowledge of lead-based paint within a home as part of a standard home sale contract, but in some instances (such as a foreclosure) such information may not be required or available. It’s best to review with your Realtor(tm) your community’s disclosure laws, especially if you are looking at an older home. Buyers generally have time within their purchase contract to test for lead, among other materials. Whether lead has been disclosed or not, many buyers choose to ask inspectors to research the presence of lead in a home and evaluate whether or not its presence is hazardous. WIN inspectors primarily screen for lead paint, but they may also screen for lead’s presence in water and provide you with valuable information and guidance if further evaluation is necessary.

Testing for lead

While self-testing kits for lead are available, the Environmental Protection Agency has stated that they are unreliable and recommends that homeowners and prospective buyers hire a professional to conduct lead testing. Lead testing usually involves inspecting levels of lead in paint around the home and a review of risks and how to amend them. A full lead test, if recommended, will involve a visual review of paint in the home, possible x-rays of home materials, dust testing, and lab testing by a lead sampling remediation company. WIN inspectors can test for lead paint as well as for lead’s presence in water.

Reducing the presence or potential presence of lead

If you believe your home has lead paint, the EPA advises you to dust and vacuum frequently and keep your walls freshly-painted. In addition, if you are planning to strip or re-paint surfaces anew, avoid using sanders, blasters, or stripping techniques that will stir up lead dust. If lead is present in water sources, it is possible to isolate or re-pipe piping materials which convey drinking water to lower the risk of lead ingestion. The EPA offers a guide to handling renovations in a home containing lead (see below).

Curious about lead?