Frequently Asked Questions for Homeowners and Real Estate Agents - Environmental Lead Program

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  1. When was the use of lead in paint banned?
  2. Why is lead a concern?
  3. What is a lead hazard?
  4. How do I know if my home has lead-based paint?
  5. Who can test for the presence of lead and determine lead hazards?
  6. Are lead test kits a good way to determine if the paint in my home contains lead?
  7. Where can I obtain a lead test kit?
  8. Must I have my home inspected or tested for lead?
  9. Is lead abatement required?
  10. Who can do lead abatement?
  11. What about renovations, repairs, and painting?
  12. Whom can I call about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) lead disclosure requirement for real estate transactions (leases and sales)?
  13. Where can I obtain copies of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) lead disclosure pamphlet entitled "Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home?"
  14. Where can I get information about lead containing products including toys, canyons, and miniblinds?

1. When was the use of lead in paint banned?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned the use of lead-based paint in toys, furniture, schools and residences in 1978. Today, lead-based paint is considered to be paint containing more than 0.06% or 600 parts per million of lead.


2. Why is lead a concern?

Lead can be harmful to humans when ingested or inhaled, and is particularly detrimental to the neurological development of children. Lead can be found in all parts of our environment – the air, the soil, the water, and even inside our homes. Much of our exposure comes from human activities such as the use of fossil fuels including past use of leaded gasoline, some types of industrial facilities, and past use of lead-based paint in homes. Lead and lead compounds have been used in a wide variety of products found in and around our homes, including paint, ceramics, pipes and plumbing materials, solders, gasoline, batteries, ammunition, and cosmetics. Lead is particularly dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Babies and young children can also be more highly exposed to lead because they often put their hands and other objects that can have lead from dust or soil on them into their mouths. Children may also be exposed to lead by eating and drinking food or water containing lead or from dishes or glasses that contain lead, inhaling lead dust from lead-based paint or lead-contaminated soil or from playing with toys with lead paint. Adults may be exposed to lead by eating and drinking food or water containing lead or from dishes or glasses that contain lead. They may also breath lead dust by spending time in areas where lead-based paint is deteriorating, and during renovation or repair work that disturbs painted surfaces in older homes and buildings. Working in a job or engaging in hobbies where lead is used, such as making stained glass, can increase exposure as can certain folk remedies containing lead. A pregnant woman’s exposure to lead from these sources is of particular concern because it can result in exposure to her developing baby. The most important step parents, doctors, and others can take is to prevent lead exposure before it occurs.


3. What is a lead hazard?

Deteriorating lead-based paint (peeling, chipping, chalking, crack, or damaged paint) is a hazard that needs immediate attention. Lead-based paint may also be a hazard when found on surfaces that children can chew or that get a lot of wear and tear. Lead-based paint is usually not a hazard if it is in good condition and if it is not on an impact or friction surface like a door or window. Lead in soil can be a hazard when children play in bare soil or when people bring soil into the house on their shoes. The TELRR defines the paint conditions and the amounts of lead in dust and soil that constitute a lead hazard.


4. How do I know if my home has lead-based paint?

Homes built prior to 1978 are likely to contain lead-based paint, and homes built prior to 1950 are even more likely to have lead-based paint. The only sure way to determine if your home has lead-based paint is to have it tested by a certified inspector or risk assessor. For a list of certified Inspectors and Risk Assessors you may refer to this Web site or contact the Texas Department of State Health Service, Environmental Lead Program at (512) 834-6787 ext. 2434 or 1-888-778-9440.


5. Who can test for the presence of lead and determine lead hazards?

Only a trained and certified Lead Inspector or Lead Risk Assessor (not a home inspector) can test for the presence of lead in paint or soil in housing (also known as "target housing" by the TELRR) and child-occupied facilities (i.e., daycare centers and kindergartens) built before January 1, 1978. A lead inspection is defined in the TELRR as “a surface-by-surface investigation by a certified lead inspector or a certified lead risk assessor to determine the presence of lead-based paint including a written report explaining the results of the investigation.” A lead-based paint inspection tells you if there is lead-based paint and where it is located. It won’t tell you whether it currently has lead hazards. A trained and certified lead inspector will use one of two methods to conduct a lead inspection such as portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) detector or collect paint chips to send off to an EPA-recognized laboratory. A risk assessment tells you if you currently have any lead hazards from lead in paint, dust, or soil. It also tells you what actions to take to address any hazards. A trained and certified Lead Risk Assessor will sample paint that is deteriorated on doors, windows, floors, stairs, and walls; sample dust near painted surfaces and sample bare soil in the yard; and get lab tests of paint, dust, and soil samples. A combination inspection and risk assessment tells you if you have any lead-based paint and if your home has any lead hazards, and where both are located.


6. Are lead test kits a good way to determine if the paint in my home contains lead?

DSHS believes that lead test kits, sometimes available at home improvement stores and other sources, can be useful to determine if there is lead in your paint; however, the kits have limitations as they can only give you a positive or negative result - they cannot tell you the amount of lead that is present. Test kits can also give false negatives and false positives, especially if used improperly. As a result, if a lead abatement is to be conducted, or you need a legal statement confirming the presence or absence of lead-based paint, you must have a certified lead inspector or lead risk assessor conduct a lead inspection on your home. There are only two ways that these certified lead professionals can conduct lead inspections: 1) paint-chip collection and having the samples analyzed by an EPA-recognized laboratory; or through 2) X-ray fluorescence (XRF) detection. To find out who is certified by DSHS, check the certified list of lead inspectors and lead risk assessors or contact the Texas Department of State Health Services, Environmental & Consumer Safety Section, Licensing Unit, at (512) 834-6600, ext. 2174, or toll-free at (888)-572-5548.


7. Where can I obtain a lead test kit?

Many home improvement stores and other hardware sources carry lead test kits.


8. Must I have my home inspected or tested for lead?

No, the Texas Environmental Lead Reduction Rules (TELRR) do not require inspections. However, if a certified Lead Inspector or Lead Risk Assessor is hired to check your home for lead, and your home is target housing (housing built before 1978), they must be certified by DSHS. To find out is certified by DSHS, check the Locate Lead Firms, Lead Inspectors, Project Designers, and Risk Assessors Web page or contact the Texas Department of State Health Services, Environmental & Consumer Safety Section, Licensing Unit, at (512) 834-6600 ext. 2174, or toll-free in Texas at (888) 572-5548. Keep in mind that a general home inspector sometimes hired to do a home inspection for real estate transactions is not permitted to do a lead inspection unless also certified as a Lead Inspector or Lead Risk Assessor.


9. Is lead abatement required?

No, the Texas Environmental Lead Reduction Rules (TELRR) does not require lead abatement even if lead is tested or assumed to be present. However, if a lead hazard is determined, interim controls such as paint stabilization should be implemented to minimize any hazards of the paint. Interim controls could include repairing damaged painted surfaces and planting grass to cover lead-contaminated soil. These actions are not permanent solutions and will need ongoing attention.


10. Who can do lead abatement?

Only trained and certified professionals can do lead abatement. All lead-based paint abatements usually have as a minimum the following certified entities involved: a certified Lead Firm; a certified Lead Abatement Supervisor to oversee the project; certified Lead Abatement Workers; and a certified Lead Inspector or Lead Risk Assessor to do clearance testing of the abatement. All samples collected in connection with an abatement, including clearance samples, must be sent to an EPA-Recognized Laboratory for analysis. (Although there is no conflict-of-interest prohibition in the TELRR, it is recommended that the certified Lead Inspector or Lead Risk Assessor be a third-party representative to the abatement project, separate from the lead abatement contractor.) Larger projects may require the services of a certified Lead Abatement Project Designer.


11. What about renovations, repairs, and painting?

Although the TELRR exempts renovation activities, effective April 22, 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Program Rule requires renovations in target housing and child-occupied facilities built before 1978 to be conducted by EPA-certified (licensed) Renovation Firms using certified Renovators (trained by an EPA-accredited trainer) who must follow the work practice requirements of the rule. The rule requires these certified Renovators to use certain lead-safe techniques to renovate and/or remodel pre-1978 housing as well as in pre-1978 child-occupied facilities. The requirements of the RRP rule are triggered when a renovation, repair or a painting job for compensation disturbs more than 6 square feet of existing interior surface paint in a room and/or 20 square feet of existing exterior surface paint on the outside. A certified Renovator could be a remodeler, a carpenter, a multi-family unit maintenance professional, a painter, a window or door replacement professional, or whoever else may disturb paint in pre-1978 construction. For more information, please see the EPA’s Renovation, Repair, and Painting Program Rule.


12. Whom can I call about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) lead disclosure requirement for real estate transactions (leases and sales)?

Questions about the lead disclosure rules should be directed to the National Lead Information Center at (800) 424-LEAD (5323) or the TSCA Hotline at (202) 554-1404. Visit the EPA's Web page for additional information on the federal lead disclosure rule.


13. Where can I obtain copies of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) lead disclosure pamphlet entitled "Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home?"

Single copies of the disclosure pamphlet can be obtained by calling the National Lead Information Center at (800) 424-LEAD (5323). Bulk copies can be obtained by calling the Government Printing Office at (202) (512) 1800. Copies of "Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home" pamphlet are also available to be downloaded from EPA's Web site.


14. Where can I get information about lead containing products including toys, canyons, and miniblinds?

The Hazardous Products Program as well as the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission can provide information on these items. You can also find specific information on lead in imported miniblinds at the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website.

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Last updated August 17, 2015