Houses built before 1978 are likely to contain some lead-based paint.
The most common sources of lead exposure for children are lead paint, house dust, and lead-contaminated soil.
If an infant in the home drinks formula, make sure the water used to mix the formula is safe to drink.
Other sources, such as traditional home cures and cosmetics, can add to a child's lead exposure.
One way to avoid lead exposure is to check your home for possible lead hazards and maintain painted or varnished surfaces in a lead-safe way.
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Check your home for lead
If your home was built before 1978, have your home tested for lead and learn about potential lead hazards. Check your home for chipping and peeling paint or have a professional complete a lead investigation called a risk assessment.
If your home was built before 1978, there is a good chance it has lead-based paint. In 1978, the federal government banned consumer uses of lead-containing paint, but some states banned it even earlier. Lead from paint, including lead-contaminated dust, is one of the most common causes of lead poisoning.
Lead paint is still present in millions of homes, sometimes under layers of newer paint. If the paint is in good shape, the lead paint is usually not a problem. Deteriorating lead-based paint (peeling, chipping, chalking, cracking, damaged, or damp) can be a hazard and will need immediate attention.
Areas to check in your home
Lead in household dust results from sources, such as deteriorating lead-based paint or varnish on surfaces.
Lead may also be a hazard when found on surfaces that children can chew or that get a lot of wear and tear, such as:
- Windows and window sills
- Doors and door frames
- Stairs, railings, banisters, and porches
Lead dust can also be tracked into the home from soil outside that is contaminated by deteriorated exterior lead-based paint and other lead sources, such as industrial pollution and past use of leaded gasoline.
Renovation, repair, or painting activities can create toxic lead dust when painted surfaces are disturbed or demolished. Learn more about hiring lead-safe certified renovation contractors.
Lead is used in some water service lines and household plumbing materials. Lead can leach, or enter the water, as water flows through the plumbing. Lead pipes and lead solder were commonly used until 1986. Learn more about lead in drinking water.
Other reliable sources of information on lead
Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home (Available in Multiple Languages)
Lead Safety Checklist (PDF)
Maintain your home
If you have a home built before 1978, it is important to make sure the paint and varnish in your home is well maintained. Below is a list of ways to keep your home lead-safe:
- Regularly check your home for chipping, peeling, or deteriorating paint, and address issues promptly without sanding. You can use a scraper to loosen paint or make the surface smoother, but wet the area first, and clean up thoroughly.
- Regularly check all painted or varnished areas that rub together or get lots of wear, like windows, doors, and stairways, for any signs of deterioration.
- Regularly check for paint chips or dust—if you see some, remove carefully with a damp paper towel and discard in the trash, then wipe the surface clean with a wet paper towel and a degreasing type of soap, like liquid dish soap that cuts grease.
- Wipe down flat surfaces, like window sills, at least weekly with a soap that cuts grease, and damp paper towels. When finished, throw away the paper towels.
- Mop smooth floors (using a damp mop and soap that cuts grease) weekly to control dust.
- Consider testing for the presence of lead and lead hazards by a lead investigation professional—this will tell you where you must be especially careful.
Other ways to know if your house has lead hazards
Learn about lead in drinking water.
Learn about lead that can be brought home from an occupation with lead or through hobbies that are conducted in the home.
Do's and don'ts to help you reduce and prevent exposure to lead dust
Cleaning uncarpeted (painted or varnished) floors
- Damp mopping, with a standard sponge or string-type mop and a liquid dish soap that cuts grease.
- Standard vacuum cleaner if no visible dust or debris from chipping or flaking paint is present, but only a vacuum with a HEPA* filter.
- Sandpaper, or power-sanders on floors unless the power sander is attached to a HEPA* vacuum.
- The scrubber strip on a mop.
- Power buffing or polishing machines, or vacuums with beater bars that may wear away the painted surface.
Cleaning carpets and rugs
- Wet scrubbing or steam cleaning methods to remove stains.
- Standard vacuum cleaners if no visible dust or debris from chipping or flaking paint is present but only a vacuum with a HEPA* filter.
- A broom to sweep dust and debris from rugs or carpets.
- Anything to shake or beat the dust from carpets and rugs.
Cleaning and dusting windows or other painted surfaces
- A HEPA* vacuum to remove any debris and dust from the window wells.
- Use soft, dampened paper towels with a liquid dish soap that cuts grease. Throw the paper towels away immediately.
- Steel wool, scouring pads, and abrasive cleaners.
- Solvent cleaners that may dissolve paint.
- Excessive rubbing of spots to remove them.
*HEPA: High-efficiency particulate filter (a filter that traps harmful particles that may be in the air).
Other reliable sources of information on lead
Lead-Safe Renovation Videos—These videos provide step-by-step demonstrations of lead-safe work practices and were developed to supplement required training and certification.
EPA Checklist Page (PDF)
Lead fact sheet (PDF)