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The Rundown on Lead Based Paint in Homes Older Than 1978

Wednesday, March 20, 2019   /   by Nicolette Samash

The Rundown on Lead Based Paint in Homes Older Than 1978

It’s important to be an educated consumer, especially when it comes to potential health risks. Lead based paint is one thing to have on your mind as a renter, home buyer, or existing homeowner. First, I’m going to explain a little bit about lead based paint – what/who is affected, what the dangers are, precautions and actions to take regarding it, and some informational links you can look to for more information. Then I will explain how this affects real estate and applies to the buying and selling of homes.

Lead based paint was widely used until it was banned in 1978. Before then, most of the paint for the interior and exterior of homes had lead based paint. According to www.leadlawsuits.com/history/history-of-the-use-of-lead-paint/, the general timeline was as follows:


·       Use of white lead began in the Colonial times and ultimately peaked in 1922.

·       In 1951, Baltimore banned the use of lead pigment in interior paint in Baltimore housing – the first such restriction in the country.

·       In 1955, the industry, working with public health officials and organizations, adopted a voluntary national standard to prohibit, in effect, the use of lead pigments in interior residential paints.

·       Through the 1950s and 1960s, the use of exterior lead-based paint declined significantly, and ended by the early 1970s.

·       In 1971, the federal Lead Poisoning Prevention Act was passed.

·       In 1978, the federal government banned consumer uses of lead paint.


Lead is toxic to ingest or inhale via dust particles, and is particularly dangerous to children under 6 (who unfortunately are the most likely to ingest it). Lead gets into the body by inhalation, ingesting of paint chips or soil that contains lead, or ingesting lead dust. Lead in paint can also leach into other paint as well, so according to the EPA guidelines, painting over lead based paint with modern paint is not enough to truly eliminate the risk. Lead based paint is more of a concern when it is chipping or peeling, or when renovations are being done on a home.

Lead exposure can be very harmful, especially in young children. It can cause learning delays, lowered IQ, nervous system damage, seizures, and in extreme cases even hospitalization or death (in cases of full lead poisoning). It is definitely something to stay informed about and take precautions against especially if you have young children. There is a blood test that can be done at your regular pediatrician’s office that will test your child’s lead levels. This test is recommended for children when they are 12 months old and then again at 24 months old, but if they have never had the test done and are older than 2 it is still recommended. Talk to your child’s pediatrician for more information.


For more information on lead based paint, the following links are very helpful:

Lead Based Paint Pamphlet
EPA - More Information
The History of Lead Based Paint


Now, how lead based paint effects the real estate world.


If you are purchasing a home that is older than 1978 you will need to sign what is called a Lead Based Paint Disclosure. This is a required form where you (as a purchaser) will have the opportunity to have a 10 day period to have a risk assessment done on the home to determine if lead based paint is present and detectable. You can also waive that opportunity if you do not wish to have the assessment done. This disclosure form is also where the seller discloses if they have any knowledge of lead based paint being present in or on the home. If the seller had a lead inspection performed they would disclose it here, but usually a seller has no knowledge of lead based paint and will mark accordingly. Part of this disclosure is also your agent and the other party’s agent signing and stating that they have informed you of the risk of lead based paint or of your obligation as a seller to disclose if you have any knowledge or records pertaining to it being present in the home.

In our current real estate climate multiple offer situations are common and as a purchaser you need to be competitive. The truth of the matter is that the majority of homes out there (depending on your area) ARE going to be older than 1978, and to request a lead based paint test can effect your offer as many homeowners don’t see the necessity of it. Not only that but lead based paint can definitely be present in your rental, office, or your child’s daycare as well.  That is why it is important to have young children tested for lead exposure and to use precaution when it comes to peeling paint or do-it-yourself remodeling of older homes. Although lead based paint was banned in 1978 there was still a lot of it currently out in circulation, and even when it was no longer in the stores homeowners and builders would still have older paint purchased in bulk that they could have used after 1978 – so there are no guarantees. Even if your home’s paint does not have lead in it, lead can exist in the pipes and in your drinking water.

As far as mitigating the risk, although simply painting over lead based paint with modern paint is not a full remedy it is the most widely used method. I personally have called multiple painting companies in my area who regularly paint over lead based paint without any special precautions or concerns. The exception to this would be when there is peeling or chipping paint that would be disturbed. To have lead based paint completely abated can be extremely expensive – and a cost that most homeowners either can’t afford or aren’t willing to do. The other option is to have the paint encapsulated by a special liquid coating to create a barrier, this would be done by a licensed lead paint remover. However even this is not complete mitigation and can also be costly. For information on pricing in your area contact your local painting companies who are qualified to handle lead based paint.


So what is the solution? It is not completely cut and dry.

·       If you have children under 6 years old (or especially under 2) speak with their pediatrician about having them tested for lead exposure and be mindful of them ingesting any paint or any dirt that may be touching paint with lead in it

·       Watch for peeling/chipping paint on homes older than 1978

·       Consider having your home tested for lead presence

·       Before doing renovations on an older home have the paint tested, avoid any sort of paint removal as it can produce dust unless the paint has been tested first

·       Know that, more than likely, the home has been repainted since 1978 and most of the tests for lead come back negative even if it was just painted over with regular paint

·       Realize that exposure to lead based paint is essentially unavoidable, whether it is in your home or not, but precautions can and should be taken

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