I can remember, when I was a little kid, dragging the back my fingernail across a painted fence, at my house. What showed up was a gray streak. I had no idea, at the time, that the gray was lead, nor that lead is a very poisonous element. Since I got into the real estate business I now have a grasp of how important it is to address the subject of lead when one is purchasing a home or commercial structure.
Any home or other structure built prior to 1950 will typically have lead-based paint with the highest levels of lead. In 1950 the federal government placed limits on the amount of lead that paint could have. In 1971 the U.S. Congress prohibited the use of lead in paint for residential structures. The Consumer Product Safety Commission instituted additional regulations that became effective in 1978. In 1996 a lead-based paint disclosure form was instituted by federal law, requiring all owners of homes built prior to 1978 to disclose any knowledge of the presence of lead-based paint in the home. The seller must disclose any personal awareness of lead-based paint and whether or not the seller has any reports regarding the presence of lead-based paint. In my 29 years in the business I have never had one seller say that he has knowledge of lead-based paint or any reports regarding same. Bear in mind that no knowledge does not mean there is not lead-based paint in the home. I always tell all prospective buyers that the seller’s lack of knowledge does not mean there is not lead-based paint. What if boils down to is that, if the home was built before 1978, there, in all likelihood, is lead in the paint. It is also possible that there are coats of water-based or oil-based paint covering the lead-based paint. That does not eliminate the danger. As a toddler I lived in a house built in the ‘30s or ’40s, and I can recall walking up to windows and chewing on the window sills. When talking to a prospective purchaser I will tell him to be sure that, whenever he needs to do sanding or sawing or anything the cuts into a painted surface, he needs to wear breathing protection. If he has kids I tell him to make sure they do not nibble on any painted surfaces. And I also advise the prospective purchaser that he has the right to test for lead-based paint. Finally there is a brochure that exists in both English and Spanish, called “Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home”, that has to be given to a prospective purchaser. All real estate brokerages provide this brochure to prospective purchasers. Brokerages also require sellers and landlords of homes built prior to 1978 to fill out a lead-based paint disclosure. You can Google the brochure and a .pdf version will pop up. It has a wealth of information. Effective April 22, 2010, contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based coatings (including lead paint, shellac or varnish) in child-occupied facilities built before 1978, must be certified and must follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.
More than 250,000 children in the United States have significantly harmful levels of lead in their bodies. Lead poisoning in young children may produce permanent neurological damage, including learning disabilities, reduced IQ, behavioral problems and impaired memory. Lead also poses a risk to pregnant women. Lead cannot be removed from the body; it accumulates.
Whenever you get ready to list your home or whenever you get ready to purchase a home built before 1978, be sure you have a conversation with the brokerage or the owner of the home, regarding lead-based paint.
DISCLOSURE: Some of the wording in this report comes directly from disclosure forms and Wikipedia.