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Dangers of lead: What to know before moving into an older home

There are certain considerations to make before moving into a home that may contain lead.

Those who enjoy classic aesthetics may prefer the look of an older home. While the elaborate architecture of a historic Victorian or Colonial home could be what sold you on your new house, there are certain dangers associated with old homes that you need to consider before moving. Used in paint, pipes and other materials in the past, lead is now classified as an extremely harmful substance when ingested or exposed to humans and animals, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It can cause health concerns like anemia, behavior problems, issues with hearing and even coma or death. Here's how to protect your family against the harmful substance.

Perform tests

If your home was built before 1978, there's a good chance that it could contain lead, noted the California Department of Health. Since it can also exist in the soil in your yard, it's important to get checked, especially if the home is located close to a busy street or highway where the exhaust of the substance could have originated and settled in the ground. While it's required for your seller to inform you of lead if you're planning to move, it's not necessarily enforced for those renting. The only way to know for sure whether your residence is affected is to get your home tested on your own. You can start by contacting a laboratory that's a part of the National Lead Laboratory Accreditation Program. Go online to research one that's in your area, and gather some samples throughout your residence to send to them for testing. Take a paint sample from a door, window sill or kitchen cabinet, as well as a chunk of soil from your backyard where children and pets typically play. If you'd rather a professional come to your home for an in-depth inspection, schedule an appointment with a state-certified inspector who can ensure the safety of your family.

Maintain paint

Performing upkeep to the paint in your home not only keeps it looking fresh and new, but it also helps prevent any harmful substances from chipping and causing danger to your family. The EPA noted that simply painting over the original base is a temporary solution, but shouldn't be considered a long term approach to ridding your home of lead. Instead, hiring a professional to seal the walls is much more effective. When renovating or painting your home, make sure to check with a certified renovator to ensure that you're not creating a harmful environment. You should also pick up fallen paint chips gently, being careful that you're not creating dust when cleaning it up. 

Practice good hygiene

Hands should be washed frequently throughout the day for reduced exposure, not just to germs, but also to lead. You should instruct children to wash up after playing outside where they could be exposed to the substance on the ground, as well as before meals and sleep, when lingering substances on their hands can transfer to their face or mouth. The toys and pacifiers that your children use daily should also be kept as clean as possible. When they come in contact with the ground, they can be contaminated by the substance and ingested if they then put it in contact with their mouth.

Dusting and mopping should also be top priorities in old homes, as lead can typically lurk in settled dust and dirt. Regularly wipe down window sills and clean floors, making sure to also thoroughly rinse the cleaning tools used to do so. Leave shoes and outdoor equipment outside to keep anything that may have come in contact with lead in the soil out of your home.

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