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Buying Older Character Homes: What You Should Know About Lead Paint



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By : M Shane    99 or more times read
For many home buyers the fabulous potential and charm in older character homes is well worth the time and effort that it can take to restore or renovate them; restoring or renovating older homes isn't just a time and money sink however, it can also be a health hazard. In homes pre-dating 1940, it is assured that lead paint was most certainly used inside the home and possibly outside as well; homes between that time and the early 1970s may well have lead paint in them as well.

You may well wonder what the danger is in having lead paint on the walls of your home, after all, it's not like you or anyone in your family is going to be chewing on them—at least not that you're aware of. Well, it just so happens that you don't have to chew on a painted wall to get lead poisoning from the paint on it. It is true that one way that you can get lead poisoning is from ingesting paint chips that have come off the deteriorating surface of a painted surface but that is less likely to occur than from exposure to lead dust. When aged paint deteriorates it breaks down—or "chalks"—releasing lead dust; this dust is picked up off the wall and other surfaces from touch and may be ingested when you put your hands to your mouth, it can also be inhaled from the air.

Exposure to lead particles can cause permanent damage to children and adults alike; lead paint is the major source of lead poisoning in children. In children the repercussions are usually brain damage, impaired mental function, and hindered mental and physical development. Pregnant women exposed to lead dust can also pass these types of effects on their fetus through their bloodstream, making it a very important component to rid your house of when you have or are expecting children. Adults can certainly suffer from lead poisoning as well, but because their development is complete, the results are different. Lead poisoning in adults causes irritability, poor coordination, nerve damage, reproductive problems, and high blood pressure.

The only way to tell if you have lead poisoning is to have a blood test to check for levels of lead in your system.

Slightly more complicated is testing for lead in your home. While there are home tests available, they deliver poor results and are quite likely to deliver inaccurate results. Lab tests will give accurate results and are quite reasonable cost-wise. Lab tests to check for lead paint will ask you to submit a number of paint samples cut from the walls of your home.

To keep your family safe and healthy it is recommended that you wet-wipe down lead paint surfaces to keep dust to a minimum until you can have the lead paint professionally removed by a lead abatement specialist. While the paint is being removed from your home it is best to stay elsewhere so that you don't increase your exposure. To help reduce your exposure you can also use a high-phosphorus cleaner to keep the amount of lead dust to a minimum; any cleaning solutions are only a temporary measure against exposure though, don't rely on that to keep your family safe.

Don't let the possibility of lead paint scare you away from buying older homes, they can be amazing places to live and many of them have already had their paint removed by previous owners. If you do need to have the paint removed in one of these otherwise idyllic abodes rest assured that the final result will be well worth the time and effort.


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