Should I buy an old house that has lead based paint?

Q: Should I buy an old house that has lead based paint? What if it is in good shape?

Many friends and family call us with this important question. We almost always steer our clients and friends AWAY from buying an old house, especially if young children are in the family. There are an estimated 24,000,000 homes in the US that still have lead based paint, which was typically applied to houses before the 1978 ban.

The older the house, the more likely it is to have multiple coats of lead paint, all of which add to the risk of childhood lead poisoning. Houses older than about 1950 are virtually certain to have lead based paint (LBP) Even when houses are well maintained, ordinary wear, tear and friction caused by opening and closing windows can generate significant amounts of LBP dust. Children then ingest the dust through normal hand to mouth activities. Children do NOT need to eat paint chips, a popular misconception, to get seriously poisoned. A coat of latex paint over lead paint will not solve this lead dust problem.

The US department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimated that 7,000,000 homes with intact paint still had LBP problems. Lead paint on a house is NOT easy to remove or otherwise make safe. Scraping, sanding or burning of the paint generates lots of lead dust, which is very hard to remove from your home. Finally, once a child ingests lead, they are at risk of severe and permanent brain damage. The best and most recent research shows that children are losing 7-10 IQ points at very, very, low amounts of exposure. So, pass on the old house, and protect your children, and your peace of mind.

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