A principal source of lead in the home is lead-based paint. Deteriorating paint, friction in sliding windows, lead on impact surfaces, as well as unsafe renovation practices can result in the accumulation of dust in the house and lead in the soil. The presence of deteriorating paint, lead-contaminated dust, and/or bare, lead-contaminated soil can result in significant lead-based paint hazards. According to a 1999 national survey of homes, 27% of all homes in the United States had significant lead-based paint (LBP) hazards.
Age of housing is also important and commonly used to estimate the risk of significant hazards in the home. Lead was banned from residential paint in 1978. The 1999 national survey found that 67% of housing built before 1940 had significant LBP hazards. This declined to 51% of houses built between 1940 and 1959, 10% of houses built between 1960 and 1977 and just 1% after that.
The Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 seeks to identify and mitigate sources of lead in the home. A high level of lead in the blood is particularly toxic to children aged six and younger. Lead can damage the central nervous system, cause mental retardation, convulsions, and sometimes death. Even low levels of lead can result in lowered intelligence, reading and learning disabilities, decreased attention span, hyperactivity, and aggressive behavior.
EPA’s 2008 Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule (as amended in 2010 and 2011), aims to protect the public from lead-based paint hazards associated with renovation, repair and painting activities. These activities can create hazardous lead dust when surfaces with lead paint, even from many decades ago, are disturbed. The rule requires workers to be certified and trained in the use of lead-safe work practices, and requires renovation, repair and painting firms to be EPA-certified. These requirements became fully effective April 22, 2010.
The Department of Commerce is an excellent resource for the RRP Rule, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website.
If you have further questions about lead-based paint hazards within the City of Bellingham, contact the City’s Community Development Division.