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Lead-based paint and real estate: how does it affect you?

Tip7 Reader and regular contributor Joel McDonald - a real estate professional who frequently writes on issues important to those considering buying, remodeling or restoring an older home - submits the following:

Even though lead-based paint has been outlawed for a long time, it is still a very real issue for both homeowners and real estate agents. In 1992, the Housing and Community Development Act made it so that seller of real estate had to disclose potential lead-based paint hazards to the purchaser at the time of sale.  Lead was used as a paint additive for nearly 125 years before it was linked to health problems around 1978.  That year, it was determined that lead would not be added to paint as an additive any longer. Any home that was built prior to 1978 could potentially have a lead-based paint problem.

The Hazards of Lead-Based Paint
The presence of lead-based paint in a home environment can lead to lead poisoning.  Children under the age of six run the greatest risk of developing lead poisoning from lead-based paint because young, growing bodies absorb many of the minerals that they come into contact with, whether it is much needed calcium or very dangerous lead.  Continuously high levels of lead in the body can lead to brain damage, behavior problems, hearing problems, and damage to the nervous system.  These problems can occur in both adults and children, and additionally in children, normal growth can be impaired.

Any home built prior to 1978 that has cracked, peeling, or chipping paint should be treated as a potential hazard and should be repaired immediately. If paint containing lead was used around the window or door frames in the home, the process of opening and closing these items may be creating a surprisingly large amount of dust containing lead. This dust is potentially hazardous and can be difficult to get rid of.  Vacuuming, sweeping, and dusting can cause the lead dust to reenter the air and dust will be kicked up every time you take a step within the home. The dust can also be tracked outside where it will contaminate the soil around the home.

Does Your Home Have a Lead-Based Paint Problem?
In order to discover whether your home has a lead-based paint problem, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that every home built prior to 1978 receive a paint inspection conducted by a trained professional. A paint inspection will let the homeowner know the lead content of every painted surface in the home and will uncover any areas or sources of serious lead exposure.

Although there are kits available commercially that allow the homeowner to conduct the testing on their own, the EPA recommends an inspection conducted by a professional inspector to uncover any dangerous areas that may be overlooked by the untrained eye. Some states have very specific rules and regulations dealing with the discovery and remedy of a lead-based paint issue, and the professional inspectors will be able to advise the homeowner of these rules and let them know the next step in the process of removing lead-based paint from their home.

Article contributed by Colorado's Fort Collins real estate service, Automated Homefinder.

image courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency