Lead Based Paint – what buyers and sellers should know

Lead Based Paint – what buyers and sellers should knowIf you’re buying or selling an older home, you’re likely to encounter the issue of lead-based paint and sign a lead paint disclosure. While lead-based paint is an important issue to know about, a little more information and history about this issue can help.

Lead-based paint was used for many years, and if the home was built prior to 1978, it’s likely that this paint was used at some point in the home. Using lead in the production of paint made it durable and washable, two characteristics that made it ideal for high-traffic areas in homes.

However, lead is toxic to the human body, particularly in its effects on children with their developing bodies. It can cause a variety of issues, including growth problems. Humans can be exposed to the lead in paint through direct contact, but also in household dust. Lead paint also tastes sweet.

During the mid-20th century, public health initiatives helped reduce and then ultimately ban the use of lead pigments in paint, culminating with the Lead Poisoning Prevention Act in 1971 and the ultimate ban on consumer use of lead-based paint in 1978.

While lead-based paint remains banned, that does not mean it was eliminated from homes. Some homeowners may be aware that lead-based paint is in their homes while others may not, and neither is unusual.

The Federal Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Rule requires that sellers or sales agents provide a copy of the pamphlet “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home” and disclose to potential buyers of any known lead issues.

Sellers are not required to test for the presence of lead paint. This is not something that is generally done during a typical home inspection and is completed separately at an additional cost by a certified lead-paint inspector.

There are steps that can be taken to abate issues with lead paint. One option is to paint over it through a process called encapsulation. Certain types of paint are effective for encapsulating the lead, effectively sealing it off permanently from exposure to humans. It is also possible to remove lead-based surfaces, thought this is something that should be done by an experienced professional and not as a DIY project, as improper removal can not only contaminate the home but also put you at personal risk via lead exposure. Neither of these processes should be taken on as a weekend project; this is work to leave to the professionals after a consultation on the best step to take for your particular situation.

For more information, the Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services offers more information about this important topic here.