If you are required to remove the lead paint in your home, due to a work order from a Municipal, State or Federal department you must make sure that any work you do is sanctioned by that department before you start!
Studies would indicate that individuals exposed to lead have a higher incident of cancer. Women who are pregnant and young children being the highest risk group.
In North America, prior to the seventies, lead was a common additive in both interior and exterior paint. The older paint becomes, it looses its bonding and adhesion characteristics which in turn can causes the paint to deteriorate. It is not unusual to have old paint begin to flake off its painted surface and in many cases it will turn into a very fine powder, which is then distributed throughout your home.
Testing For Lead:
If you believe that you could have lead paint in your home, you should perform tests to either prove or disprove your beliefs. You can contract with a company or you can purchase simple to use and inexpensive lead home test kits that are now available, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1 - 3M Home Lead Test Kit
Abatement & Remediation:
If you determine that you have lead based paint there are a number of solutions to the problem.
It is important to remember that some lead based paint removal techniques create a larger risk of exposure than leaving the lead based paint alone.
The key behind the lead based paint abatement is to reduce the potential exposure to the lead without causing a fine lead powder to be circulated throughout your home.
Extent Of The Problem:
If you determine that you have lead based paint on your walls and/or ceilings and it is currently not powdering or flaking, covering those surfaces with a quality paint or a sealer, in preparation for wallpaper, should provide an adequate barrier between you and the lead based paint and prevent it from deteriorating into a major abatement exercise.
If on the other hand the lead based paint that you have discovered is flaking or powdering or it is on trims, moldings, window frames and/or sills as shown in Figure 2, that might come in contact with a child's mouth you should implement an abatement program, in those areas to reduce the potential risk of lead poisoning and cancer.
Figure 2 - Flaking paint from a water damaged window frame
To test for powdering, place a piece of duct tape over the suspicious area making sure it is in full contact with the surface. Rub on the back side of the duct tape and then remove it. Inspect the surface area of the adhesive side. If you see any paint flakes or powder on the duct tape you have a problem.
If you have discovered lead based paint on areas that are in motion contact with each other such as single and double hung windows (Figure 3) that slide up and down or on door edges and frames you should take abatement steps. The continuous rubbing of moving parts could cause the lead based paint to powder and then be distributed throughout your home. The same situation applies to room entry doors, cupboards and cabinets.
Figure 3 - Double hung window
A common problem is wall and sill damage due to water ingress. If lead paint is found in these areas, you must correct the problem that caused the water damage before or during the lead based paint abatement project.