Lead Paint on Windows: Keep Children Safe

Lead paint is dangerous, especially to children.  If your home was built before 1978 and you still have the original windows, you may have lead paint.  It’s time to seriously consider replacing your windows — especially if you have young ones or a pregnant woman living in the home.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the routine opening and closing of windows in homes built prior to 1978 can disturb lead-based paint around the windows, causing paint dust and chips to be released into the air. These particles are so dangerous that the EPA now requires contractors to be trained and certified before they can perform any renovation, repair or painting projects in rooms or areas in a home where lead-based paint may have been previously applied.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting rule governing the work of professional remodelers in homes where there is lead-based paint has been in effect for almost a decade.

The rule addresses remodeling and renovation projects for all residential and multifamily structures built prior to 1978 that disturb more than six square feet of potentially contaminated painted surfaces inside the home or 20 square feet on the exterior of the home, due to possible lead paint contamination. The EPA rule establishes required lead-safe work practices, such as prohibiting open-torch burning and the use of high-heat guns and high-speed equipment such as grinders and sanders unless they are equipped with a HEPA filter.  It also requires a cleaning inspection after the work is completed.

Additionally, the rule establishes required lead-safe work practices, including sharing a copy of Renovate Right with the home owner, posting warning signs for occupants and visitors; using disposable plastic drop cloths; cleaning the work area with HEPA vacuuming and wet washing; and individual certification through a training course.

Dust released from lead paint is invisible to the naked eye, yet it can contaminate the home and expose residents to this harmful substance.

Young children, whose developmental skills and brain functions are subjected to the toxic dust, can be especially negatively impacted.  Children can absorb the lead dust from crawling on the floor where the dust settles. Toddlers routinely put their hands in their mouths — and after playing on the floor near a window, they can easily transfer the dust into their mouths. The ingested lead travels through the bloodstream to a child’s developing brain, causing many types of neurobehavioral damage.

Rick Nevin, a consultant to the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH), tells us that the most common problem with lead in paint is not that a child is eating paint chips — it’s that the child may be exposed every day to unseen contaminated dust particles that have settled in household dust.  The contaminated dust is often connected with the operation of the window.

According to Nevin, one of the most important long-term investments a homeowner can make for the overall safety of a family is to replace older windows, using the EPA-approved lead safe renovation guidelines.

“If you live in a home built before 1978, and you have single-pane windows, replace them now”, says Nevin. “This is one of the only ways to reduce lead risks for your family. Make sure to use only a contractor that is certified in lead-safe work practices and strongly consider the use of Energy Star qualified windows. “These windows are a healthy choice for replacing older single-pane units. They’re energy-efficient and a good value for the investment.”

Nevin explains that homeowners need to understand there are four key steps to completing a “lead-safe window replacement strategy” for the home. “First, replace all single-pane windows with Energy Star qualified windows,” says Nevin. “Second, stabilize any significantly deteriorated paint. Third, perform specialized cleaning to remove any lead-contaminated dust. And finally, perform dust wipe tests to confirm the absence of lead dust hazards after the clean up.”

Nevin, the NCHH and the New York University School of Medicine have been awarded a National Institute of Health challenge grant for “Preventing Child Residential Lead Exposure by Window Replacement.”  The project includes the launch of a “Windows of Opportunity” website to promote the many benefits of lead-safe window replacement.

Protect yourself and your children from lead paint poisoning by replacing old lead paint windows.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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