"Understanding Your Home" by Building Inspector Mark Visser
Home Page
About Us
Fireplace/Wood Stove
Heating and Cooling
Windows and Doors



Lead in Paint, Sanding and harmful dust
Need more information?
Use our search box
- Health warning.
- Remedial action.
- The US government and leaded paint.
- The Canadian government and leaded paint.
- Links to other helpful articles.

Lead paint or lead-based paint is paint containing lead, as pigment. Lead is added to paint to speed up drying, increase durability, and maintain a fresh appearance.
Lead paint is especially hazardous to children under age six, whose developing bodies are susceptible to lead poisoning. It causes nervous system damage, stunted growth, kidney damage, and delayed development. It is particularly dangerous to children because it tastes sweet, encouraging children to put lead chips and toys with lead dust in their mouths. Lead paint is also dangerous to adults and can cause reproductive problems in both men and women.
Sanding or scraping paint, which contains lead, can produce large amounts of dust which contains lead. Also, friction from opening and closing doors or windows with painted frames can produce dust which contains lead.
A myth regarding lead-based paint claims that children must eat lead-paint chips to develop lead poisoning. In actuality, ingestion of lead dust, which can be dislodged from deteriorating paint or dust generated during painting, also occurs when children get lead dust on their hands and then touch their mouths.

The best way to deal with paint that contains lead is often just to leave it alone. If you try to remove it you may create a problem that was not there before. However, if the paint is deteriorating or accessible to young children (on a window ledge for example), you should do something about it.
There are three possible solutions:
1. Encapsulation. This means covering the old paint. Walls may also be covered with wallpaper, drywall or panelling.
2. Replacement. Doors, windows, mouldings, baseboards and other trim can be removed and replaced.
3. Paint removal. Paint removal or stripping is potentially the most dangerous way to deal with paint which contains lead. Heat, sanding or sandblasting should NEVER be be used to remove paint which contains lead.
Chemical strippers are preferable. However, these strippers may contain other dangerous chemicals. Strict safety precautions are required and you may want to leave the job to a professional.

The United States' Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned lead paint in 1977, along with toys and furniture containing lead paint. The cited reason was "to reduce the risk of lead poisoning in children who may ingest paint chips or peelings."
In the late 1970s new government regulations limited the amount of lead in paint to 0.5% by weight.

Lead is no longer used in household paint. However, before World War II, paints typically contained substantial amounts of lead, ranging from 10 percent to as much as 50 percent. After the war, the use of lead in paint was reduced, but some paints still contained high amounts of lead. Lead-based paint may be a source of exposure if it is peeling or chipping, or when lead-contaminated dust is created during sanding or other renovation activities in older buildings. In 1976, the amount of lead that could be added to interior paint was limited by law, but exterior paint could still contain high amounts of lead provided it carried a warning label. Under the Surface Coating Materials Regulations, which came into force in 2005, the lead limit was reduced to its background level for both interior and exterior paints sold to consumers. Canadian paint manufacturers have been conforming to this lower level in their interior and exterior consumer paints since 1991.
(source: Health Canada "Lead and Health")

Oil or latex? How to test old paint. Advantages, disadvantages.
Tools and supplies. For surface preparation and painting.
Buy the right brush or roller. Bristles, roller material, nap length.
Surface preparation. Wallpaper glue. Treating mildew.
Liquid sandpaper - deglossers. What it is. What it doesn't do.
Painting tips. Getting ready. Tools. Painting. Storing paint.
Paint Tray Liners. Make your own. Do you really need one?
Clean-up time. Brushes, rollers, trays, solvents, paint disposal.
Lead. Sources of lead other than paint. Remedial actions. Health concerns.

Back to Top