Is Lead A Problem In Your Home? (PDF: 558KB/2 pages)
Conducting a Risk Evaluation for Lead

Does your home contain lead? Old deteriorating paint, the dust that comes off of chipping or peeling paint, bare soil, dust, and drinking water are common sources of lead found in and around older buildings.  However, just because there is lead present in the home does not necessarily mean there is cause for concern.

This web page describes some of the most common conditions to look for when identifying sources of lead that may be a problem in residential property. The information in this fact sheet does not replace a lead evaluation conducted by a lead professional licensed by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

Lead poisoning is a concern for both children and adults - breathing or eating anything that contains too much lead can cause serious health problems. Young children suffering from lead poisoning can experience learning, behavior and health problems. Adults exposed to too much lead can suffer from high blood pressure, kidney damage, and fertility problems. The good news is that lead poisoning is preventable.

Look through your home and follow up on the things you find in that condition in your home:

Lead In Paint

About 75 percent of homes built before 1978 contain some lead-based paint. So, you should assume that a house painted before 1978 contains some lead-based paint. The only way to know for sure if the paint does not contain lead is to have it tested. To learn more about testing paint, dust, soil and drinking water for lead call the
MDH. Older homes may have many layers of paint, and the older layers are more likely to contain lead. Lead-based paint was used on the inside and outside of buildings, as well as on window wells and sills, walls, trim, cabinets, radiators and floors.

Lead-based paint is not dangerous as long as it remains intact and is not rubbed, bumped or damaged. Follow up if you find any of the conditions listed below in your home. To identify possible problem areas in your home:

  • Look for chipping, peeling and deteriorating paint on fences, porches, the exterior of the house, and other buildings on the property. Pay special attention to windows and doors – the repeated motion of opening and closing windows and doors can damage paint creating lead paint chips and dust.

  • Examine swing sets and other play equipment. Some swing sets and other play equipment may be covered with chipping or flaking lead-based paint.

  • Check the condition of old wallpaper – it may have been made with dyes that contain lead.

  • Look for chipping, peeling and deteriorating paint inside the home, especially on window wells and sills, doors, trim, baseboards, railings, walls, floors and ceilings. Pay special attention to window wells and sills, and doors – these areas often contain deteriorating lead-based paint and lead dust.

  • Lead-based paint also may have been used on old toys and furniture—check the condition of the paint on these items.

  • Check the condition of radiators and other painted surfaces in bathrooms. Inadequate ventilation and continuous exposure to moisture can cause paint to chip, peel or flake.

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Lead in Dust

Lead dust is the most common source of lead exposure in young children. Lead dust can chalk off of deteriorating lead-based paint, and can also be found in leadcontaminated soil. People working with lead can also get lead on their hair, body, clothing, and shoes and then bring the harmful lead dust home to their families.

Follow up if you find any of the conditions listed below in your home. To help prevent exposure to lead dust:

  • Check window wells and sills for chipping and peeling paint. Deteriorating paint in window sills and window wells is the most common source of lead exposure in the home.

  • Be careful about tracking lead dust into the home. Family members or pets can bring in lead-contaminated soil, dust, and paint into the home—where it can end up on floors or embedded in carpeting.

  • Be careful if you work with lead at home, on the job, or while participating in a hobby. An adult who works with lead can bring lead dust into the home on their hair, body, clothing, and shoes—and expose the whole family to harmful lead dust.

  • Learn how to safely work with lead as you repair or remodel an older home. If you disturb any surfaces covered with lead-based paint, you will release small particles of lead dust.

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Lead in Soil

Follow up if you find any of the conditions listed below in your home. To find out if you may have a problem with lead-contaminated soil, ask the following:

  • Is your property located near a busy street? Bare soil next to a busy street or roadway can be contaminated with lead. During the years when lead was used in gasoline, the exhaust from cars and trucks would release small particles of lead into the air, and this lead fell into the soil. The lead stays in the soil.

  • Do you have any bare soil areas – bare soil is any soil you can see around the foundation of a building, near a fence, or under a deck? Are there paint chips in the soil? If so, your soil could be contaminated with lead paint chips or lead dust.

  • Are there bare soil areas around the foundation of a building, or elsewhere on the property where lead paint chips and dust may have fallen to the ground, while a building was being scraped and painted in the past? These paint chips and small pieces of lead dust could still be in the soil.

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Lead in Drinking Water

It is not common to find high amounts of lead in drinking water.

Follow up if you find any of the conditions listed below in your home. To find out if you may have a problem with lead in your drinking water, ask this question:

  • Do you have lead water pipes, copper pipes joined with lead-based solder or brass faucets? If the answer is yes, your drinking water could be contaminated with lead. The only way to know for sure if you have too much lead in your drinking water is to have a sample analyzed by a certified laboratory. Contact the MDH for information about taking the water sample, and a list of certified laboratories.

If you have any of these conditions on your property, you may have a problem with lead. The only way to know for sure is to have a lead evaluation conducted by a professional licensed by MDH. MDH offers free information about how to manage and clean up sources of lead, and how to reduce lead exposure.

MDH has additional information on:

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Updated Thursday, 15-Mar-2012 07:34:20 CDT