Lead Exposure in Older Buildings & The Law

Fortunately, lead poisoning is not as common as it once was and lead testing is easily accessible.  Water is no longer a big  source of  lead exposure in the United States, although corroded pipes, an antique municipal water street connection or lead pipes should be replaced.

The quality of public water supplied by a municipal source, by the way, is not the responsibility of your landlord according to the law.

Since leaded gas has now been eliminated, 80% of today’s lead poisoning cases are from exposures in homes and apartments built before the 1978 ban. Experts estimate these lead hazards exist in about 19 million of our residences and apartments.

The problem is that paint occasionally chips, flakes and peels and even this limited exposure can be a serious problem for children, developing fetuses and some adults.

Fortunately, leaded paint is often well ‘sealed’ underneath fresher paint, but problems occur during remodeling if precautions are not taken.

As multifamily housing is a highly regulated category of housing, some states require registration of buildings that pre-date the leaded paint ban and regular inspections of apartments to check for deferred maintenance, i.e., peeling or chipping paint.

Removal of leaded paint is illegal by anyone who is not certified as a lead abatement specialist – even in a private residence – as the dust is toxic, infiltrates the air and can enter ventilation systems.

No one should live in the home while lead paint is being removed unless the rooms are fully sealed by a professional and the air quality is properly protected.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the entity that provides the guidelines for both inspection and lead paint removal.

Some states like Oregon and Maryland distribute do-it-yourself inspection kits to residents on their website.  These are generally simple kits and merely identify the hazard without a comprehensive diagnosis.

By contrast, a professional lead abatement specialist will use a portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) machine to ‘see’ through the surface to determine if lead paint is underneath.

These inspections start around $400 to $600 depending on the size home.

Inspectors normally take 80 to 100 samples from all parts of the home including ceilings, trim, windowsills, etc.

Each of the samples is then tested to determine the amount of lead exposure risk and whether removal is warranted or required.

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