New Jersey Home Inspections and Lead Paint

Should You Test For lead Paint While Performing A Home Inspection

Are You Planning To Buy, Rent, or Renovate a Home Built Before 1978?

Many houses and apartments built before 1978 have paint that contains high levels of lead (called leadbased paint). Lead from paint, chips, and dust can pose serious health hazards if not taken care of properly.

OWNERS, BUYERS, and RENTERS are encouraged to check for lead before renting, buying or renovating pre- 1978 housing.

Federal law requires that individuals receive certain information before renting, buying, or renovating pre-1978 housing:

LANDLORDS have to disclose known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before leases take effect. Leases must include a disclosure about lead-based paint.

SELLERS have to disclose known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before selling a house. Sales contracts must include a disclosure about lead-based paint. Buyers have up to 10 days to check for lead.

RENOVATORS disturbing more than 2 square feet of painted surfaces have to give you this pamphlet before starting work.

Lead-based paint (LBP) is a concern in most homes built before 1978. In the U.S., White Lead was used extensively as a pigment in paint until the rising cost of lead in the 1960s prompted the use of alternative pigments. The growing awareness of lead poisoning resulted in the eventual ban of lead-based paint in 1978 when the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned the sale and distribution of residential paint containing lead. Before the decline in use and eventual ban of lead-based paint, it was considered a high quality and durable paint. It is estimated that over 80% of the homes built before 1978 contain some lead-based paint.

Exposure to Lead Paint in the Home

The primary concern with having lead-based paint in the home is lead poisoning from inhaling lead dust, ingesting lead dust from placing hands or other objects covered with lead dust in the mouth or even ingesting lead paint chips. Lead paint produces a white, chalky film of lead dust over time and, like all paints, will peel and chip when not maintained. Friction on painted surfaces such as doors and windows can also produce lead dust.

Particularly at risk are young children under the age of six years. Their innate and indiscriminate habits of putting objects in their mouths make them most susceptible to ingesting lead dust or paint chips. Their proportionally smaller body mass allows dangerously high concentrations of lead to develop more easily with minimal exposure. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 10 percent of U.S. preschoolers suffer from high enough levels of lead in their blood to poison their systems. Also at risk from exposure to lead-based paint are pregnant women. Please note that some states or local authorities require some action if a child is found to have lead poisoning or is at risk of lead poisoning. Consult your state agency to see if state or local laws apply to you.

Consumer Product Safety Commission
What You Should Know About Lead Based Paint in Your Home: Safety Alert
CPSC Document #5054
Lead-based paint is hazardous to your health.

Lead-based paint is a major source of lead poisoning for children and can also affect adults. In children, lead poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage and can impair mental functioning. It can retard mental and physical development and reduce attention span. It can also retard fetal development even at extremely low levels of lead. In adults, it can cause irritability, poor muscle coordination, and nerve damage to the sense organs and nerves controlling the body. Lead poisoning may also cause problems with reproduction (such as a decreased sperm count). It may also increase blood pressure. Thus, young children, fetuses, infants, and adults with high blood pressure are the most vulnerable to the effects of lead.

Children should be screened for lead poisoning.

In communities where the houses are old and deteriorating, take advantage of available screening programs offered by local health departments and have children checked regularly to see if they are suffering from lead poisoning. Because the early symptoms of lead poisoning are easy to confuse with other illnesses, it is difficult to diagnose lead poisoning without medical testing. Early symptoms may include persistent tiredness, irritability, loss of appetite, stomach discomfort, reduced attention span, insomnia, and constipation. Failure to treat children in the early stages can cause long-term or permanent health damage.

The current blood lead level which defines lead poisoning is 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. However, since poisoning may occur at lower levels than previously thought, various federal agencies are considering whether this level should be lowered further so that lead poisoning prevention programs will have the latest information on testing children for lead poisoning.

Consumers can be exposed to lead from paint.

Eating paint chips is one way young children are exposed to lead. It is not the most common way that consumers, in general, are exposed to lead. Ingesting and inhaling lead dust that is created as lead-based paint “chalks,” chips, or peels from deteriorated surfaces can expose consumers to lead. Walking on small paint chips found on the floor, or opening and closing a painted frame window, can also create lead dust. Other sources of lead include deposits that may be present in homes after years of use of leaded gasoline and from industrial sources like smelting. Consumers can also generate lead dust by sanding lead-based paint or by scraping or heating lead-based paint.

Lead dust can settle on floors, walls, and furniture. Under these conditions, children can ingest lead dust from hand-to-mouth con- tact or in food. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air through cleaning, such as sweeping or vacuuming, or by movement of people throughout the house.

Older homes may contain lead based paint.

Lead was used as a pigment and drying agent in “alkyd” oil based paint. “Latex” water based paints generally have not contained lead. About two-thirds of the homes built before 1940 and one-half of the homes built from 1940 to 1960 contain heavily-leaded paint. Some homes built after 1960 also contain heavily-leaded paint. It may be on any interior or exterior surface, particularly on woodwork, doors, and windows. In 1978, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission lowered the legal maximum lead content in most kinds of paint to 0.06% (a trace amount). Consider having the paint in homes constructed before the 1980s tested for lead before renovating or if the paint or underlying surface is deteriorating. This is particularly important if infants, children, or pregnant women are present.

Consumers can have paint tested for lead.

There are do-it-yourself kits available. However, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has not evaluated any of these kits. One home test kit uses sodium sulfide solution. This procedure requires you to place a drop of sodium sulfide solution on a paint chip. The paint chip slowly turns darker if lead is present. There are problems with this test, however. Other metals may cause false positive results, and resins in the paint may prevent the sulfide from causing the paint chip to change color. Thus, the presence of lead may not be correctly indicated. In addition the darkening may be detected only on very light-colored paint.

Another in-home test requires a trained professional who can operate the equipment safely. This test uses X-ray fluorescence to determine if the paint contains lead. Although the test can be done in your home, it should be done only by professionals trained by the equipment manufacturer or who have passed a state or local government training course, since the equipment contains radioactive materials. In addition, in some tests, the method has not been reliable.

Consumers may choose to have a testing laboratory test a paint sample for lead. Lab testing is considered more reliable than other methods. Lab tests may cost from $20 to $50 per sample. To have the lab test for lead paint, consumers may:

  • Get sample containers from the lab or use re-sealable plastic bags. Label the containers or bags with the consumer’s name and the location in the house from which each paint sample was taken. Several samples should be taken from each affected room (see HUD Guidelines discussed below).
  • Use a sharp knife to cut through the edges of the sample paint. The lab should tell you the size of the sample needed. It will probably be about 2 inches by 2 inches.
  • Lift off the paint with a clean putty knife and put it into the container. Be sure to take a sample of all layers of paint, since only the lower layers may contain lead. Do not include any of the underlying wood, plaster, metal, and brick.
  • Wipe the surface and any paint dust with a wet cloth or paper towel and discard the cloth or towel.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recommends that action to reduce exposure should be taken when the lead
in paint is greater than 0.5% by lab testing or greater than 1.0 milligrams per square centimeter by X-ray fluorescence. Action is especially important when paint is deteriorating or when infants, children, or pregnant women are present. Consumers can reduce exposure to lead-based paint.

If you have lead-based paint, you should take steps to reduce your exposure to lead. You can:

1. Have the painted item replaced.

You can replace a door or other easily removed item if you can do it without creating lead dust. Items that are difficult to remove should be replaced by professionals who will control and contain lead dust.

2. Cover the lead-based paint.

You can spray the surface with a sealant or cover it with gypsum wallboard. However, painting over lead-based paint with non-lead paint is not a long-term solution. Even though the lead-based paint may be covered by non-lead paint, the lead-based paint may continue to loosen from the surface below and create lead dust. The new paint may also partially mix with the lead-based paint, and lead dust will be released when the new paint begins to deteriorate.

3. Have the lead-based paint removed.

Have professionals trained in removing lead-based paint do this work. Each of the paint-removal methods (sandpaper, scrapers, chemicals, sandblasters, and torches or heat guns) can produce lead fumes or dust. Fumes or dust can become airborne and be inhaled or ingested. Wet methods help reduce the amount of lead dust. Removing moldings, trim, window sills, and other painted surfaces for professional paint stripping outside the home may also create dust. Be sure the professionals contain the lead dust. Wet-wipe all surfaces to remove any dust or paint chips. Wet-clean the area before re-entry.
You can remove a small amount of lead-based paint if you can avoid creating any dust. Make sure the surface is less than about one square foot (such as a window sill). Any job larger than about one square foot should be done by professionals. Make sure you can use a wet method (such as a liquid paint stripper).

4. Reduce lead dust exposure.

You can periodically wet mop and wipe surfaces and floors with a high phosphorous (at least 5%) cleaning solution. Wear waterproof gloves to prevent skin irritation. Avoid activities that will disturb or damage lead based paint and create dust. This is a preventive measure and is not an alternative to replacement or removal.
Professionals are available to remove, replace, or cover lead-based paint.

Contact your state and local health departments lead poisoning prevention programs and housing authorities for information about testing labs and contractors who can safely remove lead-based paint.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) prepared guidelines for removing lead-based paint which were published in the Federal Register, April 18, 1990, page 1455614614. Ask contractors about their qualifications, experience removing lead-based paint, and plans to follow these guidelines.

  • Consumers should keep children and other occupants (especially infants, pregnant women, and adults with high blood pressure) out of the work area until the job is completed.
  • Consumers should remove all food and eating utensils from the work area.
  • Contractors should remove all furniture, carpets, and drapes and seal the work area from the rest of the house. The contractor also should cover and seal the floor unless lead paint is to be removed from the floor.
  • Contractors should assure that workers wear respirators designed to avoid inhaling lead.
  • Contractors should not allow eating or drinking in the work area. Contractors should cover and seal all cabinets and food contact surfaces.
  • Contractors should dispose of clothing worn in the room after working. Workers should not wear work clothing in other areas of the house. The contractor should launder work clothes separately.
  • Contractors should clean up debris using special vacuum cleaners with HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters and should use a wet mop after vacuuming.
  • Contractors should dispose of lead-based paint waste and contaminated materials in accordance with state and local regulations.

Government officials and health professionals continue to develop advice about removing lead-based paint. Watch for future publications by government agencies, health departments, and other groups concerned with lead-paint removal and prevention of lead poisoning.
Consumers can obtain this publication and additional publication information from the Publications section of CPSC’s web site.

This document is in the public domain. It may be reproduced without change in part or whole by an individual or organization without permission. If it is reproduced, however, the Commission would appreciate knowing how it is used. Write the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Office of Information and Public Affairs, 4330 East West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814 or send an e-mail to

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from more than 15,000 types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction. Deaths, injuries and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $700 billion annually. The CPSC is committed to protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard or can injure children. The CPSC’s work to ensure the safety of consumer products – such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters, and household chemicals – contributed significantly to the 30 percent decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 30 years.

To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, call CPSC’s hotline at (800) 638-2772 or CPSC’s teletypewriter at (800) 638-8270, or visit CPSC’s web site at To join a CPSC email subscription list, please go to Consumers can obtain this release and recall information at CPSC’s Web site at

True/False Questions on Lead

1. House paint no longer contains lead, so it’s not a problem.
False. Because household paint before the 1970’s often contained lead, it may still pose a problem. As lead paint ages, it can chip or crumble into dust. Exposure to lead paint dust or chips can cause serious health problems, especially to children and pregnant women. So, if you live in or own an older home, you need to know how to protect yourself and others.

2. You can tell by looking if paint contains lead.
False. The only way to be sure if paint contains lead is to have it tested by a qualified professional. Home test kits are not reliable, and can’t tell you whether the paint poses a risk.

3. If I have lead-based paint, I can still safely remodel or renovate.
True. Small projects that disturb old surfaces which have lead-based paint can be done safely. In fact, it is best to assume that
building materials in an older home contain lead, and take proper precautions. Larger jobs should be done by trained professionals.

4. Getting rid of lead paint is better than leaving it there.
False. Lead paint that is in good condition is usually not a hazard. However, if you plan to do a project which disturbs the paint in any way, it must be done carefully.

5. Some methods of removing lead-based paint actually do more harm than good.
True. Some methods, such as dry sanding, dry scraping, torching, or power sanding can create huge amounts of lead dust. Once
the dust is released into the home, it can make occupants sick if it enters the body. Always use a method that creates the least amount of dust and fumes.

6. Preparing to do the job is as important as the methods used to do it.
True. It’s important to take certain precautions to protect your family. Children and pregnant women should leave the work area.
Remove all furnishings (even rugs, if possible) before beginning. The work area should be sealed with plastic and taped down to keep the lead dust in. Cover air vents and turn off heaters and air conditioning systems during renovation and remodeling

True/False Questions on Lead

7. A dust mask will protect you from breathing lead dust.
False. A dust mask is not sufficient. It is best to wear a properly fitted respirator with special lead (HEPA) filters. Coveralls, goggles and gloves are also important to wear–throw them away when the work is done, or wash them separately. Do not eat, smoke or drink in the work area.

8. Besides removing lead paint, there are other ways to protect my family from lead dust.
True. One way to prevent exposure to lead is to cover the surface with a new one, such as drywall. Another way is to use special paints called encapsulants that seal the lead paint to the surface so it won’t chip off. Sometimes the best choice is to replace an item such as a window or a door containing lead paint.

9. Scraping and sanding are acceptable methods for removing lead-based paint.
True. One way to prevent exposure to lead is to cover the surface with a new one, such as drywall. Another way is to use special paints called encapsulants that seal the lead paint to the surface so it won’t chip off. Sometimes the best choice is to replace an item such as a window or a door containing lead paint.

10. Vacuuming with a household vacuum is the best way to clean up lead dust after a household project.
False. Standard household or shop vacuums should not be used because they put lead dust into the air. HEPA vacuums (with special lead filters) are the best. Floors should be wet mopped with a heavy duty household cleaner such as automatic dishwashing detergent and then HEPA vacuumed. Plastic should be rolled and any construction debris wrapped in plastic. After cleaning the work area, remove coveralls and other protective clothing for disposal or separate washing.

11. The only way that I can tell if someone in my family is lead poisoned is by a blood test.
True. Sometimes there are no symptoms of lead poisoning at all, or the symptoms can be mistaken for common illnesses. A blood test is the only way to be sure about lead exposure. It’s important to know if children are being exposed to lead, because then you can prevent additional exposure. All children should be tested at age 1 and again at age 2. Lead poisoning can cause fatigue, crankiness, stomachaches, kidney damage, behavior problems, reproductive problems, seizures, coma, and even death.

12. There are regulations regarding lead paint.
True. Sellers of homes, landlords and realtors are required to disclose the presence of known lead paint and lead hazards during the sale or rental of housing. Renovation and remodeling contractors are required to warn customers of the hazards of lead paint