Lead based paint has been banned since approximately 1978 due to the numerous health hazards it can cause. Lead used to be in almost every type of paint but after much research it was deemed too toxic to be safe.
Many times, especially in older houses or antique furniture, lead based paint is still present. Even if it has been painted over numerous times with other types of paint, the lead is still present so care must be taken when removing it.
Here are some things to consider when removing this type of paint and what to do if you think you accidentally sanded lead paint.
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Why is Lead Paint Dangerous?
Lead has been deemed a neurotoxin by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There is no safe amount of lead for humans to ingest or inhale.
It has been found to be especially dangerous to young children, which caused a large public health crisis in the 70’s because many baby cribs were painted with lead-based paint. It has been scientifically proven to cause cognitive dysfunction and mental retardation with prolonged exposure.
Is There a Safe Way to Remove Lead Paint?
Lead based paint will not have any particular smell or indicator to let you know there is lead in it. A good rule of thumb is if you are renovating any house or piece of furniture that was built in the 70’s, you must assume there is lead paint present and call for an expert to come safely remove it.
Most contractors who deal with potential lead paint exposure will take extra safety precautions. These can include a HEPA circulating air filter to disperse the lead dust in the air, respirator masks, full suits, and making the room airtight so the lead dust does not spread to other areas of the house.
They also will not simply strip the paint, they will remove the plaster or drywall that contains the paint and they dispose of it in a safe way. The extreme lengths that these contractors go through should speak to just how dangerous lead paint can be and it’s not something you should try to remove on your own with proper preparation.
What If I Don’t Want to Remove the Paint?
If the process of lead paint removal seems a bit too daunting or out of your price range, you can always choose the option of painting over it. If you decide to do this, you still must take special safety precautions.
First, you want to make sure you NEVER sand, scuff, or chip at lead paint. Any type of lead particles that get into the air can be dangerous for you and everyone in your house. Second, before you paint over it, you want to purchase and apply a specific type of primer called an encapsulant.
Encapsulant primers are typically thicker than regular paint primers and will work to seal the lead paint underneath to prevent any dust or chipping. It is not recommended to use encapsulants on areas with high friction as they will deteriorate over time.
I Sanded Lead Paint, What Now?
If you have discovered you accidentally sanded lead paint, don’t freak out. You have recognized the issue and are now equipped to deal with it.
Isolate and Ventilate the Area
Before you do anything else, you must isolate the room the lead paint was in. Close any doors that lead to the interior of your house and open any windows that lead to an exterior area. Use ceiling and floor fans to push out the dust particles.
Note that lead does not degrade very fast, so if you are pushing out the dust particles to your lawn, you will need to take steps to cover it with mulch and those particles can still be kicked up later and cause health issues.
Call a Contractor
As much as we love a good DIY project, your health and safety aren’t worth it when it comes to lead paint. Call a professional contracting company and let them know you need a remodel that involves lead paint and they will come prepared.
If you don’t feel that is an option, allow the room to ventilate for a minimum of two days and then seal the remainder of the lead paint with an encapsulating primer.
Monitor for Lead Poisoning
First, take a few deep breaths and understand that a small amount of exposure to lead will most likely not lead to any long-term health problems. It is still a good idea to watch for any signs of potential lead poisoning in yourself and your family members.
Headache, stomach pains, irritability, and slowed or slurred speech are a few indicators of lead poisoning. If you want to be absolutely sure, you can request a blood test from your doctor to determine the amount of lead in your body.