When writing a purchase agreement for a home built before 1978, a "lead paint disclosure" is required by federal law as part of the purchase agreement. This disclosure by the seller to the buyer tells whether the seller knows of, or has tested for, lead based paint in the home. On the disclosure, the buyer is given the opportunity to have a "risk assessment" done on the home and is also given a pamphlet called "Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home." The pamphlet instructs how to keep your home safe if it does have lead paint: no sanding, no scraping, and no hot air guns to strip the paint. The recommended course is to wash to remove anything lose and repaint or encapsulate the painted surface.
Lead assessments were a hot button in the mid '90's. The City of Minneapolis inspectors did assessments on rental properties throughout the City. The resultant condemnations created quite a stir among landlords and owners. In some areas, two-thirds of a block would have the florescent signs of condemnation on the front and back door. The only way to remove a property from the condemnation list was to remove or "abate" the lead. In most cases this involved hiring a company to remove or encase the lead without scraping, sanding, or heating the paint. . . a very pricey undertaking involving suits and masks and special equipment. Some owners of condemned houses actually walked away from them (today's "walking away" from homes is reminiscent of those days) because of the financial impact on their business. The City eventually realized their "plan" was not working, and today it's less common to see the lead condemnation notices.
In my 15 years of experience, only one property being actively marketed had a lead risk
assessment done. The inspection report was on the counter with the other disclosures at the time of the showings. Because the emphasis has been on lead paint, it was a surprise to read there was lead in the varnish used on woodwork or in the
wallpaper. Granted the lead levels were much lower for varnish and wallpaper, but the lead was still present. None of my classes had shared this tidbit of
It was a relief to realize I had unwittingly protected myself while removing the many rooms of wallpaper in my lifetime. Instead of dry peeling the paper, my method had been to thoroughly soak the walls and loosen with a putty knife. The soaked bits that were scraped off did not become airborne, but were bagged and removed from the home.
Buyers of home built before 1978 should remember to not let their children eat the paint and to keep painted surfaces in good repair, not allowing them to chip and flake. We older people managed to survive lead paint in all of our homes (Maybe that's why we're so weird!), but as the paint ages, it needs to be kept repainted to maintain its safety.