Lead is a highly toxic metal that can cause serious health issues, especially in children. If your home was built before 1978, there’s a good chance it contains lead-based paint. When that paint starts chipping and flaking, it can release lead dust into your home’s air. This lead dust settles on surfaces and can be ingested or inhaled, causing lead poisoning.
That’s why Denver lead testing is so important for the safety of your family. Getting your home tested for lead by a certified lead inspector can identify if and where dangerous levels of lead exist. Then you can take steps to remove or contain that lead safely through abatement.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss in detail:
- The health dangers of lead exposure, especially for children
- How lead gets into your home through paint, dust, soil and water
- Who is at highest risk of lead poisoning
- When you should test your Denver home for lead
- What’s involved in lead inspection and testing
- Understanding your lead test report results
- Steps for lead abatement and safe removal
- The importance of using a certified lead professional
- Resources for financial assistance with lead abatement
Let’s dive in and explore why Denver lead testing should be on your home health checklist.
The Dangers of Lead Exposure
Lead is a naturally occurring toxic metal. Before regulations, lead was commonly used in gasoline, paint, pipes, batteries, ammunition, cosmetics, toys, and many other consumer products.
Decades of these products contaminating our environment means lead can be found in the dust and soil around most older homes. It also means that homes built before lead paint was banned in 1978 likely contain lead-based paint.
Lead is highly poisonous because it can replace other minerals in your body, like calcium, iron, and zinc. This interferes with many vital bodily functions and causes serious health issues:
- Brain and nervous system damage
- Hearing loss
- Delayed growth and development in children
- Learning and behavior problems
- Lower IQ levels and reduced attention span
- Kidney dysfunction and disease
- Reproductive issues including miscarriage and pre-term birth
- High blood pressure and hypertension
- Digestive problems such as colic, diarrhea and constipation
- Muscle and joint pain or weakness
- Headaches, irritability and fatigue
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Mood disorders like anxiety and depression
Children under 6 years old are especially vulnerable because their brains and bodies are still rapidly developing. Even low levels of lead exposure can reduce IQ, cause learning disabilities, and lead to behavioral problems.
Pregnant women need to be particularly cautious as lead can pass through the placenta and affect fetal brain development. Lead mimics calcium so it is absorbed into the bones, which is concerning for women as lead will be released from bones back into the bloodstream during pregnancy.
How Lead Gets Into Your Home
There are several ways toxic lead can make its way into your family’s living environment:
The biggest source of lead exposure in homes is lead-based paint, which was commonly used until it was banned in 1978. Homes built prior to 1978 have a high likelihood of containing lead paint.
When this paint starts chipping, cracking, flaking or creating dust during home renovations, dangerous lead particles are dispersed. As your family goes about their day, they can inhale these particles or get them on their hands and clothing. Normal hand to mouth contact leads to ingesting the paint chips or dust.
Lead in dust can also settle on toys, furniture, floors, windowsills and other surfaces that kids touch frequently. It also lands in soil surrounding the exterior of your home.
Lead Pipes and Plumbing Fixtures
Many older homes still have lead service lines, pipes and plumbing fixtures that contain lead. As water flows through these lines and fixtures, it causes lead to leach into the water supply.
Using hot water or letting water sit in the pipes increases the lead content. Any drinking, cooking or bathing using this contaminated water will expose you to lead. This is especially dangerous for mixing baby formula.
Soil and Air
Years of leaded gasoline being used in cars means there is often a high level of lead in the soil near highways and roads. Lead released from industrial sources has also impacted soil in some areas. Living near current smelting, mining, battery recycling or other lead-related industries can increase lead exposure.
Hobbies like auto repair, home renovation, pottery, jewelry making or firearms use can also bring lead into the home through contaminated clothing or materials.
Who is Most at Risk of Lead Poisoning?
While lead exposure is unsafe for people of all ages, some are at higher risk levels:
- Children under 6 years old
- Pregnant women
- People living in a home built before 1978
- People in low-income housing or older rental properties
- Families using well water or who live near lead industries
- People whose jobs or hobbies involve lead
- Recent immigrants, refugees and international adoptees
- People living near active industrial sources of lead
If you fall into any of these higher risk groups, it’s essential to test your home for lead and prevent any possible exposure.
When Should You Test Your Denver Home for Lead?
The EPA requires lead-based paint testing upon sale or lease of homes built before 1978. But waiting for a real estate transaction could mean you and your family live for years in a home with toxic lead levels.
That’s why the EPA and Denver health officials recommend proactive lead screening and testing in the following situations:
- You live in a pre-1978 home where young children or pregnant women will be living
- Your home has had recent work done like window replacement, sanding, scraping, or demolition
- You see chipping, peeling, or damaged paint
- Your home has lead pipes, service lines or solder
- You use well water and want to test for lead content
- There are high levels of lead in soil around your home
- Your children have elevated lead levels detected by your pediatrician
- You live near active lead industries or highways
Contact a certified lead inspector if any of those apply to your home. Staying informed on possible sources of lead can help prevent poisoning.
What Does Lead Testing and Inspection Involve?
The only way to know for sure if your home contains hazardous levels of lead is to have a certified professional test for it. Many companies offer lead testing and inspection services in the Denver area.
The inspector will conduct a visual examination of the condition of your home to identify areas with deteriorating paint, bare soil, or other possible lead hazards. Then they will take samples to send to an accredited laboratory for analysis.
Common testing areas include:
- Paint films on walls, windows, doors, stairs, and trim
- Dust on floors, window sills, and window troughs
- Soil around the exterior of the home
- Tap water
- Chipped paint pieces or flakes
The lab will determine exactly how much lead is present in these samples. If any samples exceed safety thresholds, then you’ll receive a report outlining which areas need remediation and how urgently it should be addressed.
Understanding Your Lead Test Report
The lead test report will outline which samples contained elevated lead levels and how those compare to safety standards. Some key terms and thresholds to understand include:
EPA Clearance Standards
- Dust – 10 micrograms per square foot (μg/ft2)
- Soil – 100 micrograms per gram (μg/g) for play areas; 1,200 μg/g for other areas
- Water – 15 parts per billion (ppb)
CDPHE Clearance Standards
- Dust – 10 μg/ft2
- Soil – 400 μg/g
HUD Clearance Standards
- Dust – 40 μg/ft2 on floors; 250 μg/ft2 for windowsills
- Soil – 400 μg/g in play areas
Anything above those levels means there are lead hazards present that require remediation. The higher the amount, the more urgent it is to correct.
- <0.5% – Negative for lead-based paint
- 0.5%-1.0% – Lead present, not considered lead-based paint
- 1.0% – Considered lead-based paint
Any paint with over 1.0% lead content meets the definition of lead-based paint. If this type of paint is found, the report should outline where it is located so it can be dealt with properly.
Steps for Lead Abatement and Safe Removal
If your lead inspection report comes back with elevated levels, don’t panic. There are steps you can take to correct lead hazards and protect your family:
- Prevent access to contaminated areas: Keep kids away from chipping paint, block off access to rooms or spaces with lead present.
- Clean up lead dust safely: Use damp cleaning methods and high-efficiency HEPA vacuums designed for lead. Never dry sweep, sand, scrape, or strip paint with lead.
- Reduce tracking of contaminated soil: Cover bare soil, install landscaping materials, remove contaminated top soil. Provide shoe-wiping stations.
- Address lead paint: There are a few options for dealing with lead-based paint safely, including:
- Enclosure: Cover over lead paint with sealants, drywall, paneling, etc.
- Encapsulation: Apply special bonding primer over lead-based paint.
- Paint removal: Have certified professional use safe chemical or manual removal processes.
- Component replacement: Remove and replace doors, windows, trim with lead paint.
- Get rid of lead plumbing: Replace lead service lines, pipes, faucets, and fixtures with lead-free alternatives.
- Use HEPA filters: Use portable air filters and shower HEPA filters to reduce lead in water during abatement.
- Follow thorough clean-up procedures: After remediation, conduct specialized cleaning and re-test rooms for lead clearance.
Getting a clearance test after remediation ensures the home is safe again for your family. Be sure to utilize contractors certified in lead abatement for any removal or clean-up work.
The Importance of Using a Certified Professional
Given the risks associated with lead exposure, it’s critical you use properly trained professionals for both testing and remediation.
The EPA requires certification for those conducting lead inspections, risk assessments, abatement projects or clearance testing. There are state and federal certification programs, including from the EPA, HUD, and OSHA.
Only hire contractors certified in lead abatement, ideally with these credentials:
- Lead Abatement Supervisor: Oversees entire abatement project and crew
- Lead Abatement Worker: Conducts lead-based paint removal, enclosure, and encapsulation
- Lead Inspector: Assesses and tests home to identify lead-based paint and hazards
- Lead Risk Assessor: Evaluates health risks, provides hazard reports
- Lead Sampling Technician: Takes dust, water, paint chip samples for testing
- Lead Project Designer: Plans lead abatement approach and safety protocols
Using uncertified contractors could actually make lead hazards worse through unsafe removal practices that increase lead dust. Protect your family by only utilizing lead professionals.
Financial Assistance for Lead Abatement
If the costs of lead testing and remediation seem beyond your budget, don’t avoid taking action that could seriously benefit your household’s health and safety. There are resources to help fund lead abatement projects:
- Bank loans with special rates for lead abatement. Ask your lender.
- Grant and loan programs through the Denver Urban Renewal Authority.
- State tax credits of up to $3,000 for lead abatement costs.
- Discounted testing and contractor rates through federal grant programs.
- Income-based financial assistance for repairs through Habitat for Humanity.
- HEPA vacuum discounts and loaners from local health departments.
- Property improvement programs from the Denver Housing Authority.
- Payment plans or sliding scale fees offered by some contractors.
Prioritize testing and addressing any lead found. The financial investment is small compared to the health rewards of preventing lead poisoning. Reach out to local housing agencies to learn about possible funding assistance.
The Bottom Line
Lead exposure threatens children’s health and development, so Denver lead testing is a wise investment for families. Stopping dangerous lead hazards before kids are poisoned has lifelong benefits.
Hopefully this overview gives you a helpful understanding of:
- How lead enters homes and the health risks it poses
- When and why to get your older Denver home tested
- What’s involved in professional lead inspection and testing
- How to interpret lead test reports and next steps
- Safely removing lead from your home’s environment
- Finding certified lead abatement contractors and possible financial aid
Protect your loved ones by taking action on potential lead in paint, water or soil around your home. Reach out to reputable local lead professionals to schedule testing and get peace of mind about your family’s safety. With some diligence, you can identify and eliminate lead from your living spaces.