How do you know if your home is contaminated with lead?

“If your home was built before 1950, there’s a 100 percent chance it has lead paint,” said Dr. Marilyn Howarth, director of Occupational and Environmental Consultation Services at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

“It it was built before 1978, there’s a very good chance it has lead paint. If it was build afterward, it really shouldn’t have lead paint in it.”


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As lead paint ages, it can chip or crumble into dust. Exposure can cause serious health problems, especially in children and pregnant women.

To determine whether you or your family has been exposed to lead, start with a blood test. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends all children ages 1 and 2 be tested; children are considered to have a high blood lead level if the test result is 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood. The blood test can be done through a family doctor.

You can’t tell if paint contains lead by looking at it. Do-it-yourself lead test kits are available at hardware stores; some contain chemically coated swabs that change color if lead is present on wood, metal, vinyl, plastic or in dust.

But experts warn the home tests aren’t 100 percent reliable; the EPA recommends hiring a certified professional. The EPA web site allows consumers to search for certified firms by location; there are several dozen certified lead renovation, repair and painting firms in Lancaster County.