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  QUESTION: Info about management of lead paint. 03 Jun 2003, Illinois USA

If you have a home built before 1978, how do you detect lead based paint and what do you do about it? Do you have a home inspector who specializes in lead based paint find it? If he/she does, do you have to peel it off. Is it behind coats of other paint that was painted on top of it? If so, how do you remove it? Must you take all the paint off layer after layer to find it and then remove it? How then is it removed? It is one thing to preach you can't and shouldn't have it but we need answers to the rest of my questions.

ANSWER: 03 Jun 2003

Dear Jane,

The citizens of the United States have the most Lead information readily available to them of any country in the world. If you would like Lead or Lead related information please visit the websites of the Environmental Protection Agency USA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH), Department of Housing and Urban Development (US HUD) and/or contact your local Health department as they are far better equipped to handle most lead queries than the Health departments of any other country. If you are unsatisfied with the information provided by these agencies please feel free to email us again, we are sorry for this inconvenience.

To answer your specific questions - because they are excellent questions - yes, you should use a licensed lead assessor since the US is the only country I know of with such a licensing system. Phone the Lead Listing c/o QuanTech on 1888LEADLIST or 18885323547  to find a lead assessor and lead abatement contractor or, once the lead paint abatement has taken place, you can also find a lead inspector on the Lead Listing who can test to ensure the house is lead-safe for children.

As far as I am aware, the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992--Title X merely requires that the lead paint that is found is made lead-safe (inaccessible) which rarely requires full removal, although, internationally renowned lead researchers such as Professor Herbert Needleman of Lead Research Group, Uni of Pittsburgh Medical Centre argue that full removal of lead paint, if done in a lead-safe way, is the only sensible and cost-effective measure to bring about a speedy eradication of lead poisoning in society. I am not aware of a legislated requirement to either remove or eradicate lead hazards from lead paint in any other country.

Yes the lead paint is typically behind newer non-leaded coats of paint except where the newer paint has peeled and the old paint is at the surface.

As regards how to remove lead paint - the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) put out an alert in 1999 - "CPSC Warns About Hazards of "Do It Yourself" Removal Of Lead Based Paint: Safety Alert" and you'll also find useful instructions in "Lead In Your Home: A Parents Reference Guide" (at

After the work is done, the lead inspector will compare dust lead levels etc to the Clearance Requirements. See the factsheet "Identifying Lead Hazards In Residential Properties [including Lead Dust Hazard Standards; Lead Soil Hazard Standards and Lead Abatement Clearance Requirements]" 

Update 2011: Residential Lead Hazard Standards - TSCA Section 403 

I hope this is useful and thanks again for your incisive questions.

Yours sincerely
Elizabeth O'Brien

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