Trained Eye

 
 
 

Lead Paint

Question:

I have a question that I am hoping you will be able to answer. 

My husband and I own a house in Winnipeg built in 1974.  We have done renovations on a few rooms in the house. However, in the rooms we haven't finished there is peeling paint on the baseboards and doorframes. 

I am wondering what the chances are that our house contains lead paint?  We have a 6 month old who puts everything into her mouth. If there is a possibility of it containing lead paint how would we go about getting it tested?

Answer:

You have asked an excellent question about the dates that lead was used in house paint. This is of particular concern with your young daughter. I will answer your question as well as give you several references for more information.

Paint with high lead concentrations was used extensively in Canadian homes before the 1950’s, but use of paint with smaller amounts of lead continued until 1992. That is when Canadian manufacturers voluntarily stopped using it, altogether. In 1976 the Federal Government put regulations in place that limited lead in paint to .5 percent of the total weight, which is a negligible amount. Your house was built before this time, so there is a good chance that the original paint contained some lead, but unlikely that it was in high concentrations. If your home was 25 year older than it is then the lead level in the paint could be as high as 50 percent of the total weight.

The health concerns with house paint mainly arise from two issues. The first issue, which is particularly important in your case, is the possibility of small children ingesting lead from the paint. This may be from chewing on loose or damaged paint, paint chips, or from hand contact with painted surfaces. The second issue is the health concerns when doing renovations or repainting.

Lead can be released into the home from paint by scraping, sanding or burning during remodelling. Often, older paint must have the surface roughed up or partially removed to allow proper adhesion of the new paint. Excess sanding, other than small areas, can be particularly dangerous as the dust can easily be inhaled by the person doing the work. Sanding very old paint should be avoided, but if necessary, special precautions must be taken to prevent inhalation of dust. Approved respirators must be worn by the sander, the rooms enclosed with polyethylene and a fan exhausted to the exterior to prevent contamination of the rest of the home. Cleanup and proper discarding of the paint dust, drop sheets and rags must be done carefully to avoid exposure. For these reasons Health Canada recommends removal of older paint by stripping with chemical paint strippers, to minimize exposure to lead. The precautions taken, when stripping paint in this way, should be similar to those mentioned above to prevent unnecessary health risks.

In dealing with interior house paint that may contain lead, the simplest method for safety is encapsulation. What is involved in this process is sealing the older paint by covering with new coats of fresh paint. Encapsulation is only possible if the old surface is not chipped or loose. If the old paint surface is deteriorated, removal of the damaged areas may be necessary before repainting. If walls are to be repainted and the surface is shiny, Tri-sodium Phosphate (TSP) may be use to wash the walls prior to renewal. Care should be taken to discard rags used to wash walls containing lead paint.

Again, it is unlikely that a home your age has a significant level of lead in the original paint, and there are probably several coats covering the original by now. If you are still suspect after reviewing all the available information, you may choose to have the paint tested. The most accurate way to test the paint would be by providing a sample to an approved testing laboratory. Contact an approved lab in your area for specific instructions for sample retrieval and quantity requirements.

Health problems related to lead poisoning have been well known for many years. Also, the potential for small children to get sick from ingesting lead paint has been identified decades ago. That is why lead in paint, gasoline, plumbing solder and other common products have been eliminated. Lead paint in older homes is one of the few areas that care must still be exercised to prevent future contamination. Simple blood tests can be taken at the doctor’s office to determine if an abnormal level of lead is present in an individual’s body.

There are numerous publications available on lead poisoning, lead concerns in homes and other lead related information. CMHC has an excellent free brochure entitled “Lead In Your Home” that is available on their website at www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca for order or for downloading in PDF format. Also, Health Canada has a paper on their website at http:hc-sc.gc.ca/iyh-vsv/prod/paint-peinture_e.php on Lead Paint.

 

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