Protecting Your Association from Lead-Based Hazards

What is lead?

Lead is a toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around our homes. Lead also can be emitted into the air from motor vehicles and industrial sources, and can enter drinking water from plumbing materials. This toxic metal is a public health concern; it is linked to behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures and death. Children six years old and under are most at risk. The most common sources of lead poisoning are:

  • Deteriorating lead-based paint
  • Lead contaminated dust
  • Lead contaminated residential soil

What Constitutes a Lead Based Hazard?

Paint, varnish or any other coating that contains more than 0.5 percent lead by weight or more than 1.0 milligram of lead per square centimeter is called lead-based paint. When lead-based paint is in a condition that makes it an imminent health threat, it is a lead-based paint hazard. Federal law defines a lead-based hazard as any of the following:

  1. Lead-contaminated household dust
  2. Lead-contaminated bare soil
  3. Deteriorating lead-based paint
  4. Lead-based paint on friction surfaces, such as windows
  5. Lead-based paint on impact surfaces, such as doors
  6. Lead-based paint on chewable surfaces, such as the interior edge of a window sill.

How to Test for Lead

If you aren’t sure whether or not you have a potential lead-based paint issue, the first step is to have the paint material tested. There are a number of options for testing paint lead content.

  1. Purchase a store-bought home “swab” test kit. [Note: the EPA is still evaluating the effectiveness of lead test kits.]
  2. Pull a sample and take it to a lab.
  3. Hire an environmental hygienist for a more detailed analysis on the extent and levels of lead-based paint in question.

What to Consider

If you are embarking on any sort of renovation or are doing any repairs, make sure to ask yourself these questions before you begin.

  1. What type of materials will be impacted by this work? Examples include casings, walls, windows, frames, sashes, sills, doors, thresholds and any other painted surfaces such as floors or concrete.
  2. Will removal of the material in question create a lead-based hazard? [Note: In some situations, you can simply encapsulate the material in question by painting it with primer or non-lead paint.]
  3. If residents are present, consider hiring a lead abatement contractor. For more information on lead abatement, click here.

Learn more about lead at the EPA's Lead website.


Adapted from the article, “Got Lead?” by Kim MacFarlane.

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