Lead Paint Testing
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Lead poisoning is a concern for both children and adults. It can cause:
- permanent problems with health, learning and behavior in children
- high blood pressure, kidney damage and fertility problems in adults
You can be exposed to lead any time you breathe lead dust or fumes, or swallow anything that contains lead.
About 75 percent of the homes built before 1978 contain some lead-based paint. The older the home, the more likely it is to contain lead-based paint. You should assume that any home built before 1978 contains some lead. To be sure, test your home for lead following the advice found on this Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) web page.
You can protect yourself and your family from lead by following the appropriate remodeling safety procedures.
Where should you test for lead in your home?
- Areas with chipped and peeling paint (ex. window troughs or wells, sills, on radiators, walls, doors, etc.)
- Soil (ex. around the outside of your house, garage, fence, homes near busy roadways, etc.)
- Water (ex. plumbing with lead or copper pipes, lead solder, brass faucets, etc.)
- Old and deteriorating paint creates loose paint chips and lead dust. Swallowing such materials can cause lead poisoning. Further, lead dust can easily get on a child's hands, toys or baby bottles, increasing their chances of lead poisoning.
- Soil, in which lead has been deposited, is a risk area. Lead can settle in soil from peeling exterior paint or leaded gasoline exhaust; once lead is in the soil, it doesn't wash away.
- If your plumbing or faucets are made of risky materials, (ex. lead or copper pipes, lead solder, brass faucets, etc.), then your household water's chances of containing lead is increased.
Who is at risk for lead poisoning?
- Property owners remodeling pre-1978 homes
- Their families
- Their neighbors
- Hired workers
Older homes may have many layers of paint, The older of these are very likely to contain lead. If these are disturbed during remodeling these older layers can become high-risk areas. Lead dust is easy to pick up through your hair, skin, or clothing that can then be passed to other family members or those working on the project with you. That is why it is very important to test for lead before beginning to remodel.
There are three methods to test your home for lead:
- Home Test Kits
- Environmental Laboratories
- Licensed Risk Assessors
Home Test Kits
Different test kits are used to test different types of materials for lead; make sure to use the correct kit for the type of sample you are testing. Home test kits are low cost, easy to use, and produce quick results. However, they don’t tell you how much lead is present. Some home test kits will also work on ceramics, drinking water, dust, and soil.
Home test kits can be found in:
- paint stores
- hardware store
- building supply stores
Remember to read the full instructions on your test kit!
If you’d rather not use a kit you can have paint, dust, soil, or drinking water samples tested by an accredited laboratory. Call the lab and ask for directions on the way to collect your sample, how much material to collect, and how to store it before bringing it to the lab. The sample must be taken correctly or the results will not be accurate.
If you use an accredited laboratory it will be able to tell you how much lead is present in whichever high-risk area you are testing. In some cases the lab will also explain the results to you. However, accredited labs are more expensive than home test kits and take longer for results. Lab results are usually received from five to ten business days.
You can also use a home test kit to find out if lead is present and then send a sample to a lab to see how much is there.
Licensed Lead Risk Assessors
The Minnesota Department of Health operates a licensing program for lead risk assessors. These assessors must successfully complete an approved training course and annual continuing education. You can hire a licensed risk assessor to evaluate a home for sources of lead before and after remodeling and cleanup. The post removal assessment tests to make sure all the harmful lead dust has been removed.
For more information about lead please contact the Lead Program at the MDH. We provide information about home test kits, laboratories that test for lead in paint, dust, water and soil and consulting firms that perform lead risk assessments. We can be reached by calling (651) 201-4620 or visiting our website at www.health.state.mn.us/lead.
Lead is a risk for both you and your family. Be informed. Be safe.