Lead Paint Hazard Activities

A Closer Look Inspection Services previously provided Lead Based Paint Risk Assessments. Market conditions did not warrant continuing these services, however our inspectors are trained to perform these services and we developed this informative article to help keep our clients aware of the hazards of Lead in the home environment. We hope you find this article useful.

The issue of lead poisoning has been well documented and recorded through out history. Rome was a world power when their society began a decline that was later attributed to lead poisoning from lead pipes that brought their water to their homes and bath houses. Benjamin Franklin wrote of lead poisoning to an acquaintance in 1786. European countries outlawed lead in paints around the turn of the 19th century. However, lead based paints were completely unregulated in the United States until 1978. Lead was added to paints to improve their durability and the lead content varied from region to region and job to job. It was not uncommon for the painter to mix in addition lead powder on the job for primer coats. Some paints were up to 90 % lead for construction projects and marine applications.

Regulation of lead based paint began in 1978 and was later expanded to cover existing low income housing after 1987. Health problems were noted with children in these housing facilities that are associated with lead poisoning. Because of poor maintenance procedures, this housing had large areas of deteriorated paint. As the paint chipped and fell, a fine almost invisible dust was created when the chips were stepped on. Exterior paint was designed to “chalk” as it aged to help keep it self clean, that chalking powder is highly contaminated with lead dust. The same types of paints were used in virtually every single home built in the United States before 1978. The lead hazard is the fine lead dust that comes from this paint and settles onto any horizontal surface.

The effects of lead poisoning is most detrimental to children under the age of six and pregnant women. Lead affects the nervous system and brain function. Lead also is substituted in the bones for calcium and can cause stunted growth and possible immune problems. Lead is a known mutagen that can cause cancer and other biological problems. Children are most susceptible because of their developing bodies and they have higher contamination rates because of hand and mouth activities. Chronic problems can develop from long term exposure to adults as well. The challenge now is to provide education and protection for individuals about this toxic poison that has contaminated their homes. 

Federal laws mandate the disclosure of lead hazards effective on all housing constructed before 1978 that is sold and leased after December 6, 1996. This disclosure will undoubtedly trigger more questions and concerns about Lead Based Paint (LBP) and the inspection process. Discovery of lead contamination will cause additional problems in selling and closing on homes built before 1978. Correction of the lead contamination can easily cost up to $20,000 per home. Correction options can be short term (Interim Controls) or long term (Abatement). Cost of these options increase as the control becomes more permanent. Use of uncertified individuals could raise liability issues.

Lead Based Paint Inspection

A surface by surface inspection of each component (walls, doors, floors, windows, trim, siding ect.) with a distinctive paint history in the home. This inspection is usually performed with an XRF (X Ray Fluorescence) device because of the need to test the multiple combinations of color paints and varnishes on different substrate materials. Paint chips may be taken in Lou of using an XRF device or to supplement inconclusive readings. The inspection report must include the location and qualitative results of each test. This inspection can only indicate the presence of lead based paint without any recommendations about how to manage the problem. This is the only activity a lead based paint inspector can perform. A risk assessor can also perform this inspection. 

Lead Hazard Screen

This inspection includes a visual inspection for deteriorated paint, with testing by XRF or chip sample analysis of each deteriorated area, and a minimum of two dust samples for lab analysis. This is a precursor test to determine the need for another more detailed inspection if lead based paint or lead dust hazard is found. If lead is found, then the report must contain recommendations on how to best manage the risk of living in this home and a recommendation for a Risk Assessment. This screen test can only be performed by a Risk Assessor. This screen test is an attempt to keep sampling cost down, but creates the most liability because of the limited scope of the test. Lead contamination can easily be missed with this screening test. The thresholds are very low (1/2 of what is considered acceptable) before a further test is recommended and can easily end up costing more money for the more comprehensive Risk Assessment. 

Risk Assessment

This inspection includes a visual inspection for deteriorated paint, with testing by XRF or chip sample analysis of each deteriorated area, and dust wipe samples for lab analysis of the living areas where children may come in contact with dust. The established HUD protocols dictate a minimum of 6 dust wipe samples for various areas such as floors, window wells and play areas. Also included are a minimum of two composite soil samples for bare soil areas next to the foundation and children play areas. Pet areas are also to be tested. A survey of background information is collected of the occupant usage of the property inspected. All of this information is then used to develop a report on the short and long term options to manage the risk of living in this home. Rough cost estimates are to be included in the report to help evaluate the options.

Clearance Test

This is a visual inspection of the interim or abatement controls that were implemented to limit the lead hazard. Dust wipe samples are usually the primary means for measuring the effectiveness of the control and required cleaning. 

Interim Control

Any method that is used to control the lead hazard that will last for less than 20 years. Interim controls should be followed up with a Clearance Test repeated on a scheduled regular basis to evaluate the effectiveness of the interim control. Additional interim controls or abatement may be needed to stop the lead contamination. 


Any method that is used to stop or control the lead hazard and that will last for more than 20 years. Abatement can include any or all of the following procedures; encapsulation, enclosure, replacement, removal. 


This is a paint coating to contain the LBP. Encapsulation can be an interim control if the coating is warranted for less than 20 years, or abatement if it is warranted for more than 20 years. The condition of the substrate and the adhesion of the underlying paints are considered when this control is part of the risk assessment. Lead based paint may have to be wet scraped or wet sanded to be prepared for encapsulation. Preparation by someone other than a lead abatement worker, supervisor, or project designer could result in serious lead contamination that could cause serious health problems and expensive abatement procedures. 


A mechanically attached covering that protects the leaded surface. Examples of this method include sheetrock, paneling and siding. Full enclosure means sealing the sides of the enclosure material to prevent lead dust from escaping the enclosure materials. Enclosure methods may pose recontamination risk if remodeling is ever performed.


Replacement of components that are lead dust generators such as, wood casement windows and doors, are most often the items that fall into this category. All friction, abrasion and impact areas are suspect. Stair treads, drawers and cabinets all have aspects of friction, abrasion and impacts that may require some control measures. 


Sometimes the lead contamination can only be controlled by physical removal or restrictions to access the contaminated area. Deteriorated lead paint, carpet and soil most often fall into this category. This control is usually the most expensive because of the potential for further lead contamination to people and property. The paint to be removed is considered toxic waste and disposed of in a regulated manner. High lead in soil can also be abated with an impermeable covering such as concrete or asphalt.