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Fact Sheets about Lead
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Fact Sheet Topics
•  Lead Testing
•  Lead Poisoning
•  Using Lead Swabs
•  Drinking Water and Lead 
•  Home Repairs and Renovations

Fact Sheet: Lead Testing  Get PDF
. . .
Who Should Do the Testing?
Testing to determine the presence of lead in paint, dust, water, and soil is best done by trained professionals. Some states, like California, require lead inspectors to be state-certified.

Testing for Lead in Paint
To thoroughly analyze the paint in your home, each different painted surface should be tested. Different paints may have been used on walls, window frames, doors, and so on. Paints may also differ from room to room. Each of your home's painted surfaces, both inside and outside, should be tested separately.

Professional testing companies use two basic methods to measure lead in paint:

  • X-ray fluorescence (XRF) uses portable detectors that X-ray a painted surface to measure the amount of lead in all the layers of paint. This type of testing is done in the home and disturbs little, if any, paint.
  • Laboratory testing of paint samples involves removing samples of paint from each surface to be tested, usually from an area of about two square inches. Samples are sent to laboratories for analysis. This method leaves a bare spot on each surface tested.
Do-it-yourself test kits are commercially available. These kits do not tell you how much lead is present, however, and their reliability at detecting low levels of lead has not been determined. Professional testing for lead in paint is recommended.

Testing for Lead in Household Dust
Household dust may contain tiny particles of lead released from lead-painted surfaces inside the home or tracked in with lead-contaminated soil from outside.

The recommended sampling method for dust is the surface wet wipe. Dust samples are collected from different surfaces, such as bare floors, window sills, and window wells. Each sample is collected from a measured surface area using a wet wipe, which is sent to a laboratory for testing.

Testing for Lead in Water
Household drinking water may contain lead, usually from old pipes that contain lead or from lead solder in plumbing.

Water samples can be collected directly from the faucet. Two samples are usually collected. One sample is taken from water that has been standing in the plumbing lines overnight or for eight hours or longer, and a second sample is taken after letting the water run for several minutes to flush the lines. The water samples are then sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Testing for Lead in Soil
Lead may be present in the soil around your home and near streets and highways close to your home.  To test soil for lead, samples are taken from areas near your home where children play and from areas that contain soil likely to be tracked into your home. The soil samples are sent to laboratories for analysis.

This document was prepared by the U.S. Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratories, Champaign, Illinois, for distribution by the National Lead Information Center. [Doc date: 10/92]

If you are in Southern California and are interested in evaluating potential lead hazards in your home contact HomeSafe at 1-800-648-LEAD (or on the Web at for details.)

SOURCE: National Lead Information Center 
Ph: (202) 293-2270, Fax: (202) 293-0032;
PROVIDED BY: HomeSafe, Inc. 
Ph: 1-800-648 LEAD 

(FS-1  rev 7/00)

Fact Sheet: Lead Poisoning  Get PDF
. . .
The Problem
Childhood lead poisoning is the number one environmental health risk facing children in industrialized countries today. In the United States, more than three million children age six and younger-- that's one out of every six children in that age group--has toxic levels of lead in their bodies. Similar proportions of children are affected in other countries, from Germany to Australia, that have used lead in industry and consumer products.

Lead is a powerful neurotoxin that interferes with the development and functioning of almost all body organs, particularly the kidneys, red blood cells, and central nervous system. In young children, lead retards the development of the central nervous system and brain. High levels of lead exposure can result in coma, convulsions, and death.

At low levels, lead can cause reduced IQ, reading and learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder and behavioral problems. As a result, childhood lead poisoning is associated with lower educational achievement, higher rates of high school drop-out and increased behavioral problems. In the long run, children who are lead poisoned may be less likely to become positive contributors to our communities and our economy.

Sources of Lead Poisoning
In the United States, lead was banned in residential paint in 1978, but about 60 million homes still contain lead paint. And, most children are poisoned in or near their homes.

Most children are poisoned by ingesting household dust that contains lead. Invisible lead dust is just as hazardous as paint chips. This dust can be created by friction --- the opening of windows or the rubbing of a tight door. Many children are poisoned during home renovation work that generate lead dust.

Drinking water can also be a problem, especially in homes with lead pipes, faucets or fittings made of brass (which contains some lead) or homes having copper pipes with lead soldered joints. If your water source is a well with a submerged pump, you should stop using the water and have it tested.

Lead Poisoning Can be Prevented
Lead poisoning is entirely preventable. What's required is:

  • Awareness of the risks -- particularly during home renovations.
  • Having children tested (a simple blood test).
  • Removal and/or reduction of lead hazards in homes, child care centers, and schools.

If you are in Southern California and are interested in evaluating potential lead hazards in your home contact HomeSafe at 1-800-648-LEAD (or on the Web at for details.)

PROVIDED BY: HomeSafe, Inc. 
Ph: 1-800-648 LEAD

(FS-2   rev.7/00)

FactSheet: Q & A's About Lead Swabs  Get PDF
. . .
What are Lead Swabs?
They are chemical filled applicators that the user rubs on an area to check for lead.  If lead is present the applicator tip changes color. These kits are relatively inexpensive, provide quick results, and are widely available at retail hardware and home improvement stores.

How do Lead Swabs work?
There are a number of different products on the market, and procedures for their use vary. Most contain a chemical (either rhodizonate or sodium sulfide) that changes color in the presence of lead.

My home was built before 1978. Should I use Lead Swabs to see whether my home has a lead problem?
Federal agencies do not recommend using Lead Swabs as the basis for making decisions about lead in paint, soil, or dust. 

Professional testing for lead in paint is recommended. To receive a list of laboratories that have passed proficiency testing for analysis of lead in paint, soil, and/or dust samples: Call: 1-800-424-LEAD  Fax: 202-659-1192 [to request a lab list by fax] When you call or fax, please specify that you are requesting the NLLAP/ELPAT List of Laboratories.

The federal government - HUD's Lead Hazard Reduction Office - also sponsors The Lead Listing, a list of certified lead inspectors.  For more information visit HUD's web site at:

Is there any kind of reliable lead test kit I can use at home?
Yes. Because we have received so many similar inquiries, HomeSafe recently introduced a line of do-it-yourself testing kits and supplies at

The cost of a residential inspection or risk assessment is usually about $350-$400, including samples, lab fees AND advice on how to manage any lead hazards that are found.  While it’s always best to hire a trained professional, taking some initial samples yourself can save you money.  Then, if you discover lead hazards, you can hire a professional.

If you are in Southern California and are interested in a professional lead test or risk assessment contact HomeSafe at 1-800-648-LEAD (or on the Web at for details.)

SOURCE: National Lead Information Center 
Ph: (202) 293-2270;  Fax: (202) 293-0032
PROVIDED BY: HomeSafe, Inc. 
Ph: 1-800-648 LEAD 

( FS-3  rev.7/00)

FactSheet:  Lead & Drinking Water Get PDF
. . .
In June of 1986, amendments to the SAFE DRINKING WATER ACT signed by President Reagan required the use of lead-free pipe, solder and flux in the installation or repair of plumbing systems connected to public water systems. The law gave states until 1988 to enforce the new limitations. Prior to that time, most solder contained about 50% lead.

According to the EPA, chances of having lead in your drinking water are likely to be high if:

  • your home has faucets or fittings made of brass which contains some lead, or
  • your home or water system has lead pipes, or
  • your home has copper pipes with lead solder, AND
    • the home is less than 5 years old, or
    • you have naturally soft water, or
    • water often sits in the pipes for several hours.
  • To minimize lead in drinking water you should:
    • Flush your pipes. Don't use water that has been sitting in your pipes over six hours.
    • Use only water thoroughly flushed from the cold water tap.
    • Flush until the water becomes as cold as it will get (this can take up to 2 minutes or longer).
    • Once you've flushed a tap, fill a container and put it in the refrigerator for later use.
    • Use only cold water for drinking, and especially for making baby formula.
    • Never cook with or consume water from the hot-water tap. (Hot water dissolves lead more easily and is therefore more likely to contain higher levels of lead.)
    • Have your water tested by a competent laboratory approved by your state or the EPA. (Your local or state department of environment or health should be able to tell you which labs are qualified.)
Scientific data indicates that the newer the home, the greater the risk of lead contamination. Lead levels decrease as a building ages. This is because, as time passes, mineral deposits form a coating on the inside of the pipes (if the water isn't corrosive). This coating insulates water from the solder. 

You can get more information from EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 or the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-FYI-LEAD.

If you are in Southern California and are interested in evaluating potential lead hazards in your home contact HomeSafe at 1-800-648-LEAD (or on the Web at for details.)

PROVIDED BY: HomeSafe, Inc. 
Ph: 1-800-648 LEAD 

(FS-4   rev.7/00)

FactSheet:  Home Repair and Renovation  Get PDF
. . .
What You Should Know About Lead-Based Paint
Most houses and apartments built before 1978 contain lead-based paint. Lead-based paint produced before 1960 contains higher concentrations of lead than paint manufactured in later years. In fact, the older the home, the more likely it is to have lead-based paint hazards.

HUD and EPA estimate that at least 19 million homes in the U.S. have lead-based paint hazards, of which at least 4 million were occupied by families with young children under age 6 (HUD 1990; EPA 1995). Over time, homes with these specific conditions change, as families age or move, and as buildings deteriorate

Lead-based paint can be on walls, ceilings, woodwork, windows, and sometimes floors. When lead-based paint on these surfaces is broken, sanded, or scraped, it breaks into tiny, usually invisible, pieces that you or your child may swallow or inhale. Even small repair and renovation jobs, including repainting projects, can create enough lead dust and chips to harm you. If proper precautions are not taken, renovation, remodeling and maintenance, including repainting, can generate large amounts of lead-contaminated dust and soil.

Before You Repair or Renovate
BEFORE you disturb an old painted surface, you should ...

  • Contact a certified lead inspector or call your county health department or check your yellow pages under lead-paint detection services.
  • If lead-based paint is found in your home, have the repair or renovation done by a contractor who has been trained in "lead-safe work practices."
If You Suspect That You Have Lead Paint  . . .
AVOID the following activities, which can produce invisible lead dust and create hazardous conditions:
  • dry scraping, sanding, or using a heat gun on painted surfaces before repainting;
  • making holes in walls to get at pipes, or tearing out walls;
  • allowing furniture or other objects to bump against painted surfaces, or unnecessarily opening and closing windows and doors with painted frames and sills.
If You are Doing the Repair or Renovation 
If you will do repairs or renovations yourself in areas where you know or suspect lead-based paint is present, you SHOULD:
  • Move children and pregnant women to another apartment or house until work is completed and the area is properly cleaned.
  • Seal off the work area with 6 mil plastic and duct tape. Also, cover AC/heating ducts, furniture, carpets, rugs, and floors. Dispose of the plastic carefully.
  • To keep dust down, lightly mist painted surfaces with water before you work on them.
  • Clean up thoroughly.
    • Always clean up dust and chips with wet mops or rags soaked in a solution of trisodium phosphate (TSP) or phosphate-containing powdered dishwasher detergent and warm water. (Powdered dishwasher detergents are recommended because most have high phosphate contents. Most multipurpose household cleaners are not effective in cleaning up lead dust.)
    • To avoid skin irritation when cleaning with TSP or high-phosphate dishwasher detergent, wear rubber gloves.
    • Use two buckets-one for wash water and one for rinse water.
  • To prevent recontamination of cleaned surfaces, wash mops and rags thoroughly after each use. If this is not possible, or if you have already used the mops and rags several times, place them in plastic bags and dispose of them carefully.
  • Avoid dry sweeping or vacuuming the work area with an ordinary vacuum. Sweeping spreads lead dust around. Vacuuming also spreads lead dust around, since tiny lead particles can pass through and out of ordinary vacuum cleaners.
If Repairs or Renovations have been completed
If renovations have already occurred or are occurring, you should do the following:
  • Keep children away from paint dust and chips.
  • Clean up all dust and chips with wet mops and rags, as described above. Pay special attention to floors and to window sills and wells.
  • Close your windows if work is going on outside your home that may be scattering lead dust (for example, a neighbor scraping exterior paint). Using wet mops and rags, clean up any dust that has gotten into your home.
  • Have children under six years old tested for lead. To arrange for testing, call your doctor or your local health department.

If you live in Southern California and are interested in evaluating potential lead hazards in your home contact HomeSafe at 1-800-648-LEAD (or on the Web at for details).

SOURCE: National Lead Information Center
Ph: (202) 293-2270; Fax: (202) 293-0032
PROVIDED BY: HomeSafe, Inc. 
Ph: 1-800-648 LEAD

(FS-5   rev. 7/00)

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