Fact Sheet

Lead Poisoning Prevention

Lead poisoning can occur on a nonprofit’s building renovation or rehabilitation project site. It occurs when a person absorbs too much lead, either by breathing or swallowing a substance with lead in it, such as food, dust, paint, or water. Too much lead in the body can cause serious health problems in adult staff and volunteers, including high blood pressure and damage to the brain, nervous system, stomach, and kidneys. Lead can damage almost every organ system, with the most harm caused to the brain, nervous system, kidneys, and blood.

There are many ways in which humans are exposed to lead: through deteriorating paint, household dust, bare soil, air, drinking water, food, ceramics, home remedies, hair dyes and other cosmetics. By far the biggest source of concern is the lead paint that is found in homes built prior to 1978. Until then, lead paint was commonly used on the interiors and exteriors of homes. While lead paint that is in intact condition does not pose an immediate concern, lead paint that is allowed to deteriorate creates a lead-based paint hazard. It can contaminate household dust as well as bare soil around the house. Today, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that about 38 million homes in the United States still contain some lead paint, with approximately 24 million homes containing significant lead-based paint hazards such as deteriorating lead paint or lead-contaminated dust.

Recommendations

Workers can get seriously lead poisoned when renovation and remodeling activities take place in a home that contains lead paint. Anytime a surface containing lead paint is worked on, the debris and the dust created by the work must be contained and thoroughly cleaned up. Workers must have adequate personal protection to prevent them from breathing in any lead dust generated by the work. Therefore, it is critical that lead painted surfaces be identified before any renovation or remodeling work begins. Lead-safe work practices should be followed.

Before the renovation/rehabilitation project begins, the nonprofit should check the project work site to see if it contains lead-based paint hazards. If the home was built before 1960, it is very likely that it contains some lead paint. Homes built between 1960 and 1978 may also contain lead paint, but they are less and less likely to, the closer you get to 1978, when the Consumer Product Safety Commission finally issued its ban against lead-based paint. Homes built before 1978 that also have been allowed to deteriorate for a few years, may have a lead-contaminated dust problem. To find out if the home contains lead paint or a lead-based paint hazard, you should hire a professional lead inspector. To find out if the home contains any lead-contaminated dust (the most dangerous of all lead-based paint hazards) hire either a risk assessor or a sampling technician. They will take samples of dust throughout the home, tell you whether there is any lead-contaminated dust in the home and where it was found. A risk assessor can also tell you what you should do next to take care of the problem. To locate a lead inspector, a risk assessor, or another certified professional in lead hazard evaluation and control activities, go to the Lead Listing.

Resources

Lead Poisoning Overview

Lead Poisoning

Lead Listing of Lead Service Providers

Lead Poison Prevention Checklist