Lead testing is not included in the standard building inspection. If you are concerned about lead, please mention this to me when setting up the inspection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consider lead poisoning to be the #1 environmental health threat to American children. It is easy for poisonous lead dust to contaminate your home. Lead dust is especially dangerous to children and women who are (or wish to become) pregnant. Most houses built before 1978 contain some lead-based paint. Lead-based paint is not dangerous if it is properly cared for. But, when lead-based paint deteriorates, chalks or is disturbed during remodeling, repainting or routine maintenance, it creates an invisible, tasteless, and odorless toxic lead dust.
Most cases of lead poisoning are caused by exposure to this dust. Even such seemingly harmless acts as opening or closing a window, or the rubbing of a door jamb, are enough to create and release significant levels of poisonous lead dust.
Lead dust settles on floors and other surfaces where children play. It gets on their hands and toys, and ends up in their mouths. Slowly and without noticeable symptoms, they are poisoned.
Many homeowners unknowingly contaminate their homes when they remodel or repaint rooms that contain lead-based paint. Even though homeowners may be careful to remove paint chips, they don't realize that as they sand and scrape, lead dust is being created. That lead dust is easily spread throughout the home on their shoes, clothing and on air currents.
Pets are also highly susceptible to lead poisoning from lead contaminated dust. They pick it up on their fur and paws, then ingest it while grooming themselves. Because of their relatively small body size, it doesn't take much lead to poison a dog or cat.
There are many other sources of lead exposure, including:
Urban Soil and Dust (deposits from paint, gasoline and industrial sources). Soil can become contaminated when exterior lead-based paint flakes, chalks or peels and gets into the soil. Homes near certain industries such as smelters or lead-acid (automotive) battery manufacturers may have lead in the soil due to close proximity to those operations. Use of leaded gasoline in America has left behind deposits of lead in much of the nation's soil. Children often play in this soil, which is easily tracked into the home.
Drinking Water (leached from lead pipes, solder, service lines and brass fixtures). Lead contaminates drinking water primarily through corrosion of plumbing materials. As surprising as it sounds, some brand new faucets, new solder and new brass fittings can leach more lead than old ones. Although lead solder was outlawed for use in drinking water systems in 1986, it is still widely available for other uses and can be found in any hardware store. Studies of newer homes indicate that lead solder is being used, even though it has been outlawed.
Over time, minerals build up inside the piping system and act as an insulator between the water and lead containing components. Therefore, lead levels in water from older homes may be lower than lead levels in water from newer homes. Additionally, some treatments, such as "shocking" (super chlorination) will clean out the piping system. This cleaning removes the mineral deposits, causing the water to be exposed to leaded components once again.
Vinyl Miniblinds (lead is used as a plastic strengthener). For many years, an estimated 25 million vinyl miniblinds containing lead were imported into the United States each year. The plastic in the blinds deteriorates from exposure to sunlight and heat to form lead dust.
Therefore, even homes without lead-based paint can be sources of lead exposure. Lead is dangerous because it is so easily overlooked, and many people are unaware that these hazards exist.
Lead poisoning can keep your children from realizing their full potential:
Children are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning. Once in the body, lead interferes with the body's production of chemicals called neurotransmitters, that are necessary for proper brain functioning.
A child who has lead poisoning may not look or act sick. Early detection of lead hazards in your home is crucial to preventing lead exposure and poisoning. The ONLY way to detect lead is to test.
Even low levels of lead exposure, persisting throughout childhood, can slow normal development and be the root cause of the following problems:
Hyperactivity: Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
Women exposed to lead who become pregnant can pass lead directly to the developing baby:
This exposure does not have to be recent. Pregnant women and women of childbearing age face the risk of passing lead to their unborn child, because lead is stored in the bones and tooth dentin for extended periods of time. Changes that occur in a woman's body during pregnancy result in the stored lead being released back into the blood stream. That lead can then pass across the placenta to the developing baby.
Lead exposure in pregnant women can cause:
Low birth weight
Under no circumstances should an expectant mother be involved in the repainting or renovation of a nursery (or any other room) if it is at all possible that lead paint is present. Scraping and sanding may cause elevated levels of lead dust, which put the mother and her unborn child at risk of lead exposure. A lead dust test should always be conducted at the completion of renovation.