Humans are constantly learning from the mistakes of their past on both an individual and a species level. You learn from the things you do that cause you injury or expenses, while as a society and a species, we learn from common practices that have dangerous or negative consequences.
For much of human history, cooking and heating fires were inside of residences, drastically increasing the risk of house fires, to say nothing of the health implications from all that smoke inhalation. Modern houses have chimneys and flues, as well as detection systems for both dangerous gases and fire. Indoor fire for heat and cooking isn’t the only dangerous home inclusion we’ve since learned better about.
For many centuries, the best, most durable paint used lead in its chemical makeup. When it became obvious in the 20th century that lead was incredibly dangerous for human health and safety, the federal government stepped in to ban companies from selling lead-based paint. However, there are thousands of houses around the country contaminated with lead paint, including many rental properties here in Ohio.
The date of construction doesn’t always mean the paint is safe
The ban on the sale of lead paint in 1978 led many people to assume that houses built in 1978 or later are free from lead. However, some homes built after the passage of the ban still have lead paint.
Many professionals in both the painting and construction industries resisted the transition to lead-free paint. They may have liked the way the paint applied and didn’t see the point in throwing away inventory. In some cases, professionals purchased large amounts of paint prior to the ban and did not want to dispose of it, choosing instead to use it inside properties.
If your home was built within a few years of the ban, it makes sense to carefully inspect your home for the telltale signs of lead paint. Without an inspection and chemical testing, you can’t be certain there isn’t lead contamination.
Look for that alligator skin texture in painted areas
One of the big risks for lead paint is that it tends not to stay where people apply it in the long-term. Instead, eventually, it will crack and break off of the painted surface, producing both dangerous paint chips and dust.
When lead paint begins to crack, it often develops a scaly appearance similar to that of an alligator’s skin. Just a straight crack in the paint isn’t necessarily indicative of the presence of lead, but multiple small cracks connecting to one another could be a red flag.
Look for the accumulation of dust around areas with cracked paint
The dust that deteriorating lead paint produces is one of the biggest risk factors, as small children can eat paint chips, but the risk of inhalation or contamination throughout the house exists with the dust from lead paint.
Certain surfaces are more likely to still have lead paint
Many homeowners and some landlords took timely action to remove the lead paint from other properties after the federal ban. However, lead remediation is expensive, which means that many landlords don’t want to invest in full remediation. Instead, they often choose to simply paint over lead paint as a means of sealing it in.
Unfortunately, the focus is often on large surfaces such as walls, and not on the detail and trim of the home. Window casings, doors, crown molding, closets, basements and baseboards may all have lead paint on them that the properties’ owners didn’t bother to remove or cover.
A simple lead paint notice in your lease does not exempt your landlord from basic safety precautions that could make the difference between your child growing up with a cognitive deficit or not. If you suspect lead paint in your home may have caused poisoning in your child, getting the paint tested and your child medically assessed are important first steps to take.