Lead is used to make paint last longer. The amount of lead in paint was reduced in 1950 and further reduced again in 1978. Houses built before 1950 are very likely to contain lead paint while houses built after 1950 will have less lead in the paint. House paint sold today has very low levels of lead. Lead-based paint is the most common source of lead poisoning in children.
The danger from lead paint depends on:
- The amount of lead in the painted surface...
- The condition of the paint, and...
- The amount of paint that gets into your child.
Lead levels in paint are measured in parts per million (ppm). The greater the amount of lead in paint, the higher the ppm number. The federal government currently allows 600 ppm of lead in household paint. 5,000 ppm or over is a high amount of lead in paint. If paint is peeling or chipping, a child can easily eat it during normal play.
If the lead levels in the paint in your home are 5,000 ppm or more and you live in Housing and Urban Development (HUD) owned housing, HUD must make your home safe from lead paint.
Over many years, painted surfaces crumble into household dust. This dust clings to toys, fingers and other objects that children normally put into their mouths. This is the most common way that lead gets into your child. Children also get lead into their bodies by chewing on lead painted surfaces. Some young children eat paint that is peeling or chipping.
For more information about lead in paint, call your local health department.
Reprinted with permission from the California Department of Health Services and the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch.