Safety Sunday: Staying Lead Safe in Your Home

In the last three Safety Sunday articles, we covered how Homeowners can perform Lead Safe Renovations on older houses utilizing the 3 C’s. While the EPA & many others would have you believe that renovations on houses built before 1978 is the main cause of lead poisoning, the fact of the matter is that the cause is generally found elsewhere.  The other nasty little secret is even people living in homes built after that time may also be exposed & suffering from lead poisoning, while not even suspecting it. The one main item to remember is that lead in its normal form is not bad for you – it’s not until one ingests or inhales it, that the lead poisoning issues occur.

Items in your house:

Certain toys, books, crayons, baby cribs, water lines, ceramic tile, pottery, flashings, and even bathtubs have been found to contain lead in them.  The first four items are definitely a concern and should be replaced (or assuming the crib is a sentimental / antique piece – possibly testing and refinishing it.) The final four are not generally a concern unless the coating is flaking off or you use them to cook or drink out of – if you do so, you need to stop doing that & in the case of damaged pieces they should be replaced.

The water lines is an interesting issue, as this study from the CDC points out where more issues actually occur when a partial replacement is done as compared to leaving them alone or better yet, replacing them all. If I had to guess on this, I would attribute it to the coating or calcification of the lines which encapsulated the lead was broken free when they were worked on. Some popular advice, is not to use the hot water for cooking, making formula, etc… but to utilize the cold water tap & let it run for a minute before using it.

Cleanliness is next to godliness:

I always loved that saying, which was not only posted on the shop wall but drummed into all our heads by a great auto shop teacher, Mr. Hancock. This truly hits home, in older houses as many like to blame most cases of poisoning on lead chips and dust (created from friction & brought in from outside- remember leaded gas…) By keeping ones house clean, you can eliminate one of the biggest known causes of lead poisoning around.  Dry sweeping is not recommended as you will be kicking the dust back in the air, vacuuming & dusting with a slightly damp rag are the best means of cleaning up.

QUICK TIP: to eliminate outdoor dust being brought in – plant grass or add some sort of ground cover. This is actually the preferred abatement method, as removing the soil & replacing it does not guarantee you that it won’t contain lead, or something else worse than that it in it.

QUICK TIP 2: Wash your hands before eating, if you have been working outside, cleaning, etc…


As mentioned above, the two main issues in the house revolve around inhaling or ingesting dust (from friction sources like windows & doors) and paint chips (caused from gnawing, impacts, age, etc…) Seeing we know the causes, we know the general areas we should give priority to. One of the most popular abatement methods out there is to scrape away bad paint, impact areas, and areas where a teething child can gnaw on (balusters, corners, window stools, etc…) and repaint those areas. While they do make a special encapsulation paint that should be used, it is not always readily available and covering those areas with a high quality paint is better than not doing anything. The encapsulation paint was developed as lab studies showed that lead can migrate through regular paint as it starts to deteriorate.

Just remember, if you are doing this maintenance work, to review how to do the work safely as discussed in our last three articles; Control – ContainCheck / Cleaning or bring in a professional if required.

  • Betsy De Maio

    Great tip on keeping outdoor dust outdoors. I never would have thought of groundcover. Thanks for sharing.

    • SLS Construction

      My pleasure Betsy & thanks for the article idea on the PEX piping. One item not listed for keeping outdoors dirt outdoors (I can’t recall whose site I saw it on awhile ago) – is that the shoes should be taken off outside & wiped down (or vacuumed) before bringing them in (oh & of course washing your hands afterwards).