When left undisturbed, lead paint is mostly a dormant hazard, but during a remodel it can become a serious health issue. Any contractor dealing with it should know how to properly handle lead paint demolition and you should take steps to protect yourself and your family from contamination. Fortunately, there's an easy way to check for lead paint so you can rest easy knowing what you've got on your walls.
Before 1978, lead was added to paint to provide durability. The higher the lead content the more durable the paint–and some paint contained up to 50 percent lead. The government started cracking down on lead in 1972 but didn't completely ban it until 1978.
When dry, lead paint isn't very dangerous unless it chips off and is ingested, making it particularly hazardous to toddlers. High lead content in children can quickly lead to health and neurological issues as their bodies absorb it much faster than adults do.
You can hire a pro to test for lead, which can be a great solution if you suspect lead contamination not only in your paint but in the soil around your home. Otherwise, if you buy a lead testing kit, you can DIY. These kits run $20-$40 and the two main EPA-approved kits include the and the .
Both kits work indicate lead by changing colors, which makes results instantaneous and easy-to-read.
How to Test Your Paint
The Klean-Strip kit is easy to use and includes six tests in each kit, so you can confirm the results if you'd like or test a number of different places.
Start by using the included wipes to clean the surface test area as well as the testing tools. Pick an area where you won't notice a small paint chip is missing from your wall, like in a closet, and use the scoring tool to begin cutting out a piece of paint.
Use a razor to cut the paint off the wall and keep the paint chip from falling by using the catch card. Dig deep so you catch every layer of paint.
Cut the paint chip into four small pieces and drop them into the first solution. Then add the second solution and shake for 10 seconds. Once the solution changes color, check it against the color viewer to determine if you've got lead in your paint.
The 3M swab test for lead is even easier to do, but follow the included instructions to get the best results.
If tests conclude you are lead free, then you can continue on with your remodeling plans, but if you've got lead on your walls, make sure your contractors and builders are certified to work in homes with lead paint.