Getting the Lead Out: A Heavy Household Threat

By Martha Michael

With the rainy season behind us, you may be considering a little painting or some home repairs in the house while your kids play in the yard. You may not be aware, but both indoors and out, your family may be exposed to unhealthy amounts of lead.


It was 1978 when the U.S. Government banned lead-based paint, and it was prohibited in some states even earlier, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website. You may remember the campaign with warnings that toddlers could be ingesting lead from walls where paint was peeling.

In fact, paint is the leading cause of lead poisoning, so warnings should be heeded, especially if you have an older home. Certain household areas, according to the EPA, have a greater chance of causing harm to children, because they’re most accessible. They include:

  • Door frames
  • Window sills
  • Stairs
  • Porches

The most hazardous conditions include places where paint is peeling and chipping off of walls. Be aware that lead paint could be underneath the layers you’ve placed on top, so it’s not 100 percent out of range.


Believe it or not, household dust can be a source of unhealthy levels of lead. Of course, some of it can be the result of leaded paint used in the past.

“Even in well-maintained homes, lead dust can form when lead-based paint is scraped, sanded or heated during home repair activities,” the EPA site says. “Lead paint chips and dust can get on surfaces and objects that people touch. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air when the home is vacuumed or swept, or people walk through it.”

Your shoes can also track lead indoors from contaminated soil. Industrial pollution and previous use of leaded gas are two possible causes of soil contamination.

Sometimes lead can enter the household due to construction, and any water pipes you’ve had for more than 30 years may contain lead. Prior to 1986, lead pipes and solder were used in plumbing construction.

In the Yard

Some families have a lovely garden and kid-friendly toys in the backyard, but they also may have high concentrations of lead. Again, any soil where flakes of lead-based paint or leaded gasoline seeped into it can be contaminated. The problem occurs when housing developments are built on sites that previously contained factories with industrial contaminants.

Your kids' play equipment may also have hazardous concentrations of lead, especially those manufactured with rubber surfaces. 

Make it Unleaded

Do a thorough examination of your house to see if any paint is deteriorating. Be sure to keep painted surfaces covered and in good condition. If you’re planning any construction, use a lead-safe certified renovator for repairs or painting.

If you place doormats both outside and inside of doorways, there’s less chance you’re tracking lead-infused dirt into the house. Remove your shoes when you come inside.

Order new play equipment if you’re concerned that the older sets you have may contain lead. 

To completely put your mind at ease, have your home inspected. Experts can assess the lead content in your paint and pipes and warn you of any potential hazards.

With that peace of mind, you can get back to the season’s pleasures -- where the only lead you have to worry about is the weight you’re clamping onto your fishing line.