For older houses, lead-tainted paint is a real possibility and a real problem. If you are considering buying or selling a home that was built before 1978, you may need to have its paint tested for lead. Houses built after 1978 carry much less risk of lead poisoning, but it’s generally still prudent to have it tested.
There are several different kits available for lead testing, but because of reports of inaccurate results, the EPA does not recommend them. The best option is to have an official lead test done by the EPA. This is the most accurate way to test for lead in the house. The kits are best used for testing pottery, toys and collectables.
There are two main ways a professional lead tester can test for lead in your house. The first is via X-ray fluorescence (XRF); this is basically nothing more than a portable x-ray machine that measures the amount of lead in all the layers of paint in your home. The test is done in the home with little, if any, disturbance of the paint. An XRF technician will test every component in every room of the house including ceilings, crown moldings, chair moldings and so on.
The second method is the laboratory testing of paint chip samples. For this test, an actual chip of the paint must be removed and sent into a laboratory for testing. The expense of this test can add up quickly, as it runs about $20 per chip. There are usually about 150-300 tests needed on an average-sized home. Additionally, each chip must be two inches square, which means removing a large chunk of paint from the walls.
When testing for lead you can have dust, water and soil tested as well. A professional test is required for these because it involves the detection of very low levels of lead. For the safety of everyone in a home, it is always best to have it checked for lead before purchase or renovation in order to minimize the amount of possible exposure to lead-based products.
“Better safe than sorry” is more than a cliché; it’s a truism. If there is a possibility of lead-tainted paint in your home, take precautions and have it tested.