Piedmont Association of Home Inspectors

Lead Information

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Lead is a highly toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around our homes. Lead may cause a range of health effects, from behavioral problems and learning disabilities, to seizures and death. Children 6 years old and under are most at risk, because their bodies are growing quickly.

Research suggests that the primary sources of lead exposure for most children are:
- deteriorating lead-based paint,
- lead contaminated dust, and
- lead contaminated residential soil.

EPA is playing a major role in addressing these residential lead hazards. In 1978, there were nearly three to four million children with elevated blood lead levels in the United States. In the 1990s, that number had dropped to 434,000 kids, and it continues to decline. While we still have a significant challenge, EPA is very proud of how federal, state, and private sector partners have coordinated efforts with the public to better protect our children.

Since the 1980's, EPA and its federal partners have phased out lead in gasoline, reduced lead in drinking water, reduced lead in industrial air pollution, and banned or limited lead used in consumer products, including residential paint. States and municipalities have set up programs to identify and treat lead poisoned children and to rehabilitate deteriorated housing. Parents, too, have greatly helped to reduce lead exposures to their children by cleaning and maintaining homes, having their children's blood lead levels checked, and promoting proper nutrition. The Agency’s Lead Awareness Program continues to work to protect human health and the environment against the dangers of lead by developing regulations, conducting research, and designing educational outreach efforts and materials.

This site provides information about lead, lead hazards, and provides some simple steps to protect your family. For basic information start with the links to the right. For more specific information, and to search for and download documents use the links on the left. You can also order materials or speak to an information specialist by contacting The National Lead Information Center (NLIC) at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323).

Where Lead is Found

*In general, the older your home, the more likely it has lead-based paint. * 
 

  • Paint.  Many homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint.  The federal government banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978.  Some states stopped its use even earlier.  Lead can be found: 
    • In homes in the city, country, or suburbs. 
    • In apartments, single-family homes, and both private and public housing. 
    • Inside and outside of the house. 
  • In soil around a home. (Soil can pick up lead from exterior paint, or other sources such as past use of leaded gas in cars.) 
  • Household dust. (Dust can pick up lead from deteriorating lead-based paint or from soil tracked into a home.)
  • Drinking water. Your home might have plumbing with lead or lead solder. Call your local health department or water supplier to find out about testing your water. You cannot see, smell, or taste lead, and boiling your water will not get rid of lead. If you think your plumbing might have lead in it: 
    • Use only cold water for drinking and cooking. 
    • Run water for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking it, especially if you have not used your water for a few hours. 
  • The job. If you work with lead, you could bring it home on your hands or clothes. Shower and change clothes before coming home. Launder your work clothes separately from the rest of your family's clothes. 
  • Old painted toys and furniture. 
  • Food and liquids stored in lead crystal or lead-glazed pottery or porcelain. 
  • Lead smelters or other industries that release lead into the air. 
  • Hobbies that use lead, such as making pottery or stained glass, or refinishing furniture. 
  • Folk remedies that contain lead, such as "greta" and "azarcon" used to treat an upset stomach. 

Where Lead is Likely to be a Hazard

*Lead from paint chips, which you can see, and lead dust, which you can't always see, can be serious hazards.* 
 

  • Peeling, chipping, chalking, or cracking lead-based paint is a hazard and needs immediate attention. 
  • Lead-based paint may also be a hazard when found on surfaces that children can chew or that get a lot of wear-and-tear.  These areas include: 
    • Windows and window sills.
    • Doors and door frames.
    • Stairs, railings, and banisters.
    • Porches and fences. 
Note:  Lead-based paint that is in good condition is usually not a hazard. 
  • Lead dust can form when lead-based paint is dry scraped, dry sanded, or heated. Dust also forms when painted surfaces bump or rub together. Lead chips and dust can get on surfaces and objects that people touch. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air when people vacuum, sweep, or walk through it. 
  • Lead in soil can be a hazard when children play in bare soil or when people bring soil into the house on their shoes. Contact the National Lead Information Center (NLIC) to find out about testing soil for lead.

Additional Resources

Clicking Here will take you to the EPA's Lead Information web site.

PAHI Members: 

2004 Piedmont Association of Home Inspectors / PAHI 
The PAHI website was built as a refrence tool, free information source, and to be one central web site where homebuyers, home sellers, and realtors can obtain answers to almost all questions they may have regarding home inspections.  In order to accomplish this task most of this information is gathered from other web sites and sources including, but not limited to: EPA, CPSC, HUD, NRSB, ALA, IAQA, Code Check, Mike Holt, Inspect-NY (Daniel Frediman), ASHI, etc.  The Piedmont Association of Home Inspectors and its members have not authored any of the opinions on this web site.  Users of this web site agree to hold The Piedmont Association of Home Inspectors and its members harmless and realase all liability for any inforamtion contained on www.pahi.org or any site that www.pahi.org links to including but not limited to: www.inspectorpaul.com www.sherlockcarolinas.com www.arrowhomeinspectionservice.com www.carolina-homepro.com www.schomeinspections.com www.a-prohome.com www.aohomeinspection.com/ www.betterhomeinspection.net www.downunderinspections.com