If you’re living in or planning to move to New York City, you may be concerned about lead poisoning. Lead can come from various sources, including paint, soil, spices, and medicines. It can also cause health issues, particularly for children and expectant mothers. This guide focuses on lead poisoning from paint and how to prevent it effectively.
What Is Lead, And Why Is It Dangerous?
Lead is a natural metal mined from underground sources worldwide, but it is toxic if we’re exposed to it over time. It’s a neurotoxin that slowly accumulates in the body, poisoning the brain, bones, kidneys, and liver.
When manufacturers add lead to paint, it improves the pigment to withstand sunlight, protects metal surfaces from corrosion, and makes the paint dry faster. Lead is also present in varnishes, primers, stains, and other paint-related applications. Unfortunately, lead is toxic regardless of the amount, especially for children under six.
According to the CDC, about 29 million homes have lead-based paint risks, such as peeling paint and contaminated dust; almost 9% of these homes have young children vulnerable to lead poisoning. Although New York City banned lead-based paint for residential buildings in 1960, hundreds of thousands of violations have been reported since 2018, with 48% of cases in the Bronx. This shows why lead in NYC is a serious concern for homeowners today.
5 Signs Of Lead Paint In Your Home
Only an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certified inspector can measure the amount of lead in your home using specialized tools. However, if you suspect your home has lead-based paint, look out for the following signs before you schedule an inspection.
- Your Home Was Built Before 1978
The EPA estimates that about half of all U.S. homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint, as do two out of three houses built between 1940 and 1960 and nine out of 10 built before 1940. Ask your landlord or previous owner for your building’s construction years; they must legally disclose this information for your safety.
Note: Don’t rule out lead in NYC if your home is a post-1978 construction. Even though lead paint was banned, some builders still used it until the early 1990s.
- You See Damaged Paint In The Property
Lead-based paints may be present inside and outside your home, but they cause no harm if intact. Damaged lead paint, however, is a severe threat to your health. Loose lead paint chips and contaminated dust are easy to touch, inhale, or ingest. Suppose your painted surfaces are peeling, chipping, chalking, cracking, or accumulating dampness. In that case, they may add to lead levels in your home. In addition, high-risk surfaces like doors and windows, railings, stairs, and porches experience lots of traffic, increasing lead exposure.
- Your Surfaces Are Painted Over
Adding a fresh coat of paint is often cheaper and quicker than stripping off the old paint. Unfortunately, this only hides layers of lead paint that pose a health risk. Find a spot that’s peeling or chipping away and check for sublayers. If your home is pre-1978 and you find multiple paint layers on the walls or other surfaces, it’s safe to assume lead-based paint is underneath.
- Your Home Test Kit Shows Positive For Lead
The EPA recommends three lead test kits with under 5% false negative rate: the D-Lead, 3M Lead Check, and the State of Massachusetts Test Kit. Other brands are available, but they tend to yield inaccurate results. Use a home test kit to check for lead on the outermost paint layers. Check the same area twice or thrice to decrease your chances of getting a false negative or positive result. If you get a positive reading from different regions of your house, get a professional inspection to verify the results.
Note: You can also send paint chip samples for further testing at an EPA-accredited lab. A reading of over 0.5% means the paint is lead-based. Take care not to disturb too much of the old paint when taking samples, and be prepared to wait up to several weeks for results.
- You Have Symptoms Of Lead Poisoning
Lead poisoning is hard to trace until the body accumulates a certain amount of toxicity. Still, there are some telltale symptoms to watch out for.
- In newborns: If a pregnant mother experiences lead poisoning, the baby may be born prematurely or have a low birth weight and difficulty reaching developmental milestones.
- In children: Lead poisoning symptoms include weight loss, stomach pains, vomiting and constipation, irritability, fatigue, and learning difficulties.
- In adults: Persistent headaches, high blood pressure, stomach and muscle pains, mood disorders, weakness, and memory difficulties are some symptoms of lead poisoning in adults.
If you or your loved ones experience these symptoms while living in a pre-1978 home in NYC, and all the other signs check out (peeled paint, layers of paint, and a positive lead reading), see your healthcare provider for lead poisoning tests.
How To Prevent Lead Paint Poisoning In NYC
You don’t have to wait for severe lead poisoning symptoms if you live in an old home in NYC. If you discover signs of lead-based paint on your property, we highly recommend renovation to eliminate the toxicity and restore your home. However, you can take the following steps to minimize lead exposure as you prepare to renovate.
Step 1: Keep Your Home Dust-Free
Lead becomes dangerous when airborne as it spreads quickly throughout your home. Don’t let dust accumulate on surfaces like your floors, tables, countertops, or floors. Also, don’t shake off your carpets and rugs or dry sweep your floors. Use a wet mop to trap dust particles or a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter; empty the dust canister or vacuum bag after each use.
Step 2: Keep Your Hands Clean
You may come into contact with lead paint dust particles during your everyday home routines, e.g., holding onto staircase railings, opening windows, or shutting doors. To avoid ingesting lead, wash your hands before every meal and bedtime; teach your kids to do the same.
Step 3: Keep Household Objects Clean
Similarly, lead dust can accumulate on utensils, toys, tools, and appliances. Use soap and water or a damp disposable cloth to clean these objects regularly, especially if you don’t use them frequently. You want to minimize dust accumulation as much as possible.
Step 4: Avoid Eating In Rooms With Peeling Paint
If your living room, dining room, or kitchen shows signs of peeling or cracking paint, find other places to prepare and enjoy your meals. Remember that even a trace amount of lead harms your health, so keep food prep away from at-risk rooms until repairs are complete.
Step 5: Cover Deteriorating Paint
Duct tape or contact paper can cover peeling or chipping lead-based paint as a temporary fix. This can stop further damage to the paint and signal clearly to avoid the covered sections. Resist the urge to scratch the paint off because this will expose you to even more lead.
Step 6: Add Extra Barriers
If the paint is too damaged in certain rooms, close them off and add barriers like baby gates to keep little ones away. Also, cover any holes in the walls that might expose safer spaces to lead paint dust particles.
Step 7: Find An EPA-Certified Contractor For Renovations
As you apply the steps above, search for a certified contractor specializing in lead in NYC. The EPA has several measures surrounding renovating homes with known or suspected lead-based paint. These include updated EPA training, informing occupants about the renovation, using containment strategies to control dust and debris, and more.
Note: Don’t attempt to DIY a pre-1978 home renovation. Activities like sanding, drilling, and cutting can kick up a lot of lead dust, so let a professional handle the work.
Step 8: Find Temporary Shelter During Renovation
Children and pregnant women should avoid lead-painted properties during the renovation to reduce the risk of exposure. Consider staying with friends, renting a vacation house, an R.V., or even an Airbnb for the duration. You will be temporarily out of your comfort zone but happier and healthier when you return to your safe, lead-free home.
Restore Your Home with The NYTDR Lead Abatement Process
If you’re worried about lead poisoning in your New York home, NYTDR can give you the peace of mind you deserve. We are EPA-licensed, IICRC-certified, and experienced in lead in NYC, from testing to removal and complete property renovations. Our lead removal process involves four hassle-free steps:
- A free consultation to inspect your property for lead, followed by an estimate of the restoration costs.
- Insurance management to expedite your claims so you won’t pay for lead damage restoration out of pocket.
- Lead removal using industry-standard equipment, working fast to remove all hazardous materials according to regulations.
- Repairs and restoration to create a beautiful space free of lead poisoning once and for all.
Don’t wait for your health to change dramatically from lead poisoning or keep your loved ones at risk. Get in touch with NYTDR: call 212.206.1300, visit us at 1115 Broadway Ave., New York, or message us online today.