It’s no secret that I love vintage things, this includes homes. I love the style of homes from the 30’s to the early 60’s. They just have so much charm and character. I’ve just never been a fan of modern homes that all look alike.
It will be no surprise to people that know me that while house hunting I’ve had my eye on older homes. Most, it seems, have been updated and hold very little of the charm they originally did. Or they are in worse shape than my husband and I are willing to take on.
The other concern we’ve had while looking at older homes is lead. Lead paint was banned for homes in 1978 so homes before that and even for a few years after can still contain lead paint. Lead is also sometimes found in tile, tubs, and pipes in older homes.
Lead poisoning is still a very big issue. One reason is lead is still in some consumer goods and of course Flint has brought lead in water into the media. However, those are topics for another day.
Lead poisoning is also a concern due to older homes being renovated by the younger generations that were born after the lead paint ban. Many aren’t even considering that they could be dealing with lead paint. The shabby chic look with vintage painted furniture really highlights this. How often do you see peeling paint on doors, windows, and furniture on Pinterest? Sometimes this is done to newer pieces with safe paint but all too often it’s the real deal and may be covered in lead.
You can protect yourself and your family though. If you have young children, are pregnant or trying to get pregnant you may want to avoid homes built before 1978.
You can still do things to protect yourself if you already live in a pre-1978 home or want to buy one. The EPA has a lot of information about avoiding lead. If you have purchased or rent a pre-1978 home you should have received a pamphlet from the EPA sharing information about lead poisoning and lead safe practices.
A federal law since 1996 requires that individuals receive a lead paint pamphlet and disclosure form before renting, buying or renovating a pre-1978 home. So if you have purchased or rented a pre-1978 home since 1996 you should have had to sign a disclosure and been given a pamphlet about lead.
Unfortunately, I’m guessing many people don’t really read this pamphlet. Really how many of us read the terms and conditions even though we check that box saying we did.
If you are considering or already live in a pre-1978 home there are somethings you need to be aware of. It’s important that you consider the risk of lead before you decide to buy or rent an older home.
Health Effects of Lead
Lead poisoning can cause the following in children.
- Nervous system and kidney damage
- Poor muscle coordination
- Learning disabilities, ADD, and decreased IQ
- Speech, language, and behavior problems
- Hearing issues
- Decreased muscle and bone growth
- High levels of lead poisoning can even cause death.
While children are at the highest risk of lead poisoning, it can harm adults as well.
- Harm to a developing fetus, including an increased change of high blood pressure during pregnancy
- Fertility issues in men and women
- Digestive problems
- High blood pressure
- Muscle and joint pain
- Memory problems
- Nerve disorders
Clearly the thing you can do to best protect yourself is to avoid pre-1978 homes. But if you are careful you can live in and even renovate a pre-1978 home safely.
How to Safely Own a Pre-1978 Home
Even if you follow all of the following tips perfectly you still have a risk of lead poisoning. I am not a lead expert or a medical professional. Do your research and talk to experts before buying or renovating a pre-1978 home.
- You can reduce your lead risks by sticking to homes that were built after 1955. In 1955 the industry adopted a voluntary standard limiting lead content in paint. We see a big decrease in lead paint in homes after that. Homes built before 1940 have an 87% chance of containing lead, 1940-1959 is a 69% chance and 1960-1977 drops to 24%.
- Lead paint is most likely under layers of newer paint. If it’s in good shape it is not usually a problem. However, deteriorating paint that may contain lead is a hazard and has to be fixed immediately.
- Areas of the highest concern are windows and window sills, doors and door frames, stairs, railings, banisters, and porches. These areas see more wear-and-tear and have a higher chance of children chewing on them.
- If renovating a pre-1978 home assume there is lead. Even if you have tested it may still be there. Testing may be of a small area and may miss lead in another area. You are safest to just assume there is lead and follow lead safe practices and only hire a lead-safe contractor.
- Keep all paint in excellent shape and clean up dust often. Dust can contain lead and is one of the ways lead can enter your body.
- Pipes and solder can contain lead as well. Lead pipes and lead solder were commonly used until 1986. Assume there is lead and be sure to only use cold water from the tap for cooking and drinking, let the cold water run for about 20 seconds before using it for drinking or cooking. Also consider finding a water filter that removes lead, many don’t so do your research.
- No matter the age of your home we should all avoid wearing shoes in the house. Lead can be tracked into our homes through contaminated soil. Soil can become contaminated by deteriorated exterior lead-based paint, industrial pollution and past use of leaded gasoline. Removing your shoes before entering your home can help reduce this. Also be sure to dust and vacuum with a HEPA filter vacuum often.
Be sure to do your research before living in a pre-1978 home. Lead poisoning is a serious issue and not something to take lightly. While I have shared an overview of this issue there are so much more information out there, this is a very brief overview.
I have done a lot of research and talked to experts and decided I feel comfortable purchasing a pre-1978, post 1955, home. We don’t have children, I’m not pregnant and I know lead-safe practices. We will be cautious with any renovations and use the EPA’s advice for reducing our risks.
Do you live in a pre-1978 home? Did you know about the risks and what you should be doing to protect your family? After learning this would you still consider living in a pre-1978 home?