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RACINE  — Homeowners residing in houses constructed prior to 1978 might unknowingly be living with lead-based paint, a hazardous substance that can pose significant health risks, especially to children and pregnant women.

While the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the sale of lead-based paints for use in residential properties in 1977, millions of homes painted before the ban could still contain the harmful substance.

Signs and symptoms

Knowing whether your home contains lead paint isn’t straightforward, as its appearance doesn’t notably differ from non-lead-based paints. However, potential signs include:

  • Chalking: Lead-based paint might break down into fine, white dust over time.
  • Alligatoring: A cracked pattern resembling an alligator’s scales.
  • Peeling or chipping: Older layers may become exposed.

Testing for lead

person pouring white paint on container
Photo by Bidvine on

If you suspect your home might contain lead-based paint:

  • Home testing kits: Available at most hardware stores, these kits can provide immediate results. However, they might not always be accurate.
  • Professional inspection: A certified inspector or risk assessor can not only detect the presence of lead but can also assess the amount and location.

Handling lead-based paint

If lead paint is detected, experts recommend the following:

  • Do not disturb: Refrain from sanding, burning, or scraping painted areas which can release lead dust or fumes.
  • Lead abatement: This is a professional process wherein the paint is permanently removed.
  • Encapsulation: Applying a specially designed product over the lead-based paint to seal it in.
  • Regular cleaning: Use a wet mop on floors and a damp cloth for other surfaces to minimize lead dust.

Health implications

The ingestion or inhalation of lead can lead to a variety of health issues including developmental problems in children, fertility issues, and high blood pressure. Young children, especially, are at risk as they may ingest lead paint chips or dust.

For More Information

Homeowners are encouraged to consult the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) guide on lead in homes or visit their local health department.

Remember, while the dangers of lead-based paint are real, awareness and proactive measures can ensure that homes remain safe and healthy environments for all inhabitants.

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.