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How to test for lead in the home or other building:
This article suggests where and how a home or other building should be tested for lead contamination hazards. To reduce the risk of lead poisoning attention is needed to more than just paint.
By offering simple steps to protect your family from lead poisoning, the original US CPSC document provided advice for reducing the risk of lead poisoning for families living in homes
where lead exposure is suspected, likely, or where lead contamination is actually confirmed by testing. However that particular document omitted attention to lead contamination sources in buildings other than paint.
The original U.S. CPSC document is public domain. We have made additions to the technical depth of this article and we have added additional important detail about lead hazards
- these are indicated by a [bracketed note in italics]. The additional text or commentary, website design, links, and references are independent material.
How Should a Home or other Building be Checked for Lead Contamination Hazards?
While the original CPSC article focused on lead paint hazards (indeed a major source of lead contamination in some buildings), below we list additional potential sources of lead that should be considered. There is no doubt that no lead hazard list is exhaustive or therefore complete. Contact Us by email to suggest additions or corrections.
Airborne lead-containing soil & dust at highways and fields along highways -
see LEAD in AIR, EMISSIONS STANDARDS as well as lead-containing soils around buildings due to stripping of lead paint.
Suggestions for Checking a Building for Lead Based Paint
Just knowing that a home has lead-based paint may not tell you if there is a hazard.
You can get your home checked for lead hazards in one of two ways, or both:
A paint inspection tells you the lead content of every painted surface in your home. It won't tell you whether the paint is a hazard or how you should deal with it.
A lead paint risk assessment tells you if there are any sources of serious lead exposure (such as peeling paint and lead dust). It also tells you what actions to take to address these hazards.
Have qualified professionals do the work. The federal government is writing standards for inspectors and risk assessors. Some states might already have standards in place. Call your state agency for help with locating qualified professionals in your area (see below).
Trained professionals use a range of methods when checking your home, including:
Visual inspection of paint condition and location.
Lab tests of paint samples.
Surface dust tests.
A portable x-ray fluorescence machine.
Watch out: Home test kits for lead are available, but the federal government is still testing their reliability. These tests should not be the only method used before doing renovations or to assure safety.
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"The voluntary standard established in the United States under ASTM F-963 and the European standard under EN-71 for soluble lead in toys (lead which may migrate from the toy and be ingested by the child) is 90 parts-per-million. At that level, any intentional use of lead in paints or other surface coatings containing lead would immediately put the toy over the permitted limit."
"Under federal law, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) enforces a standard for total lead of 600 ppm. Recently, the CPSC refused to lower the lead limit in paint and other similar surface coating materials to 100 ppm after finding that most paints sold in the United States were already at or below that level and, therefore, these materials did not present an unreasonable risk of injury warranting further government regulation."
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The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
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