you or someone you know is planning work on a pre-1978
home, please make time to take precautions against the
possibility of lead poisoning.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that
about 500,000 U.S children ages 1 to 5 have elevated
lead levels in their blood. Lead paint, estimated to
exist in 40 percent of the U.S. housing stock, is
considered the most hazardous source of lead for U.S.
children, along with lead-contaminated dust.
a tiny amount of lead can cause nervous system, kidney,
hearing or other damage, as well as development
problems. Children age 6 and younger are at special risk
because they lack the developed blood-brain barrier that
protects older children and adults from more severe
1978, the federal government has banned residential use
of lead-based paint. But old paint can chip. Also, any
project that disturbs old paint — such as painting,
remodeling or window installation — can create dust
and debris that an infant or child may inhale or ingest.
That’s why the Environmental Protection Agency has
required, since 2010, that contractors whose work
disturbs lead paint be trained and certified in proper
our research team recently found significant
discrepancies between what federal law requires
regarding lead-safe home-improvement practices and what
some service providers tell potential customers.
as parents who wanted work to be done in their
2-year-old’s bedroom in a 1920s home, our team called
150 renovation contractors. We said we wanted to know
the proper ways to strip paint or replace windows,
window frames and door frames. Nearly 32 percent of the
contractors told us they didn’t have EPA lead-safety
certification, and nearly 11 percent described work
practices that might actually result in lead poisoning.
2007, when our team conducted similar research, about a
third of contractors we interviewed gave advice
contradictory to federal guidelines. I’m glad there’s
been an improvement, but our work shows that homeowners
must take matters into their own hands when ensuring the
safety of their loved ones.
you own a pre-1978 house, or your kids spend time in
one, please spend the time and money it takes to ensure
that a home improvement project doesn’t create a
Hire someone to test your home for lead. There are many
in-home kits you can buy, but for more certainty, hire a
reputable, experienced lead detection service.
Ask any painting or remodeling contractor you’re
considering if the company is appropriately certified in
Don’t just take their word for it. Verify that the
company is, indeed, certified. Visit