If ingested, lead can lead to a variety of health problems, especially for children, including brain damage and other serious issues.
Lead-based paint may be a hazard when found on surfaces that children can chew or that get a lot of wear and tear, such as windows and window sills, doors and door frames, stairs, railings, banisters, porches and fences. Lead from paint chips that are visible and lead dust that is not always visible can both be serious hazards. Lead dust can form when lead-based paint is dry-scraped, dry-sanded, or heated. Dust also forms when painted surfaces bump or rub together, such as when windows open and close. Lead chips and dust can get on surfaces and objects that people touch. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air when people vacuum, sweep or walk through it.
Your home probably contains lead-based paint if it was built before 1960. If built between 1960 and 1990, the exterior may contain lead-based paint. The paint on interior surfaces may also contain lead in smaller amounts that could still be harmful, especially to young children. Lead paint can cause harm to health if it enters the body. Houses built after 1990 should not contain lead because all consumer paints produced in Canada and the U.S. were virtually lead-free by this time.
According to health Canada, “One way to reduce children’s exposure to lead is to reduce dust in your home. Because children tend to put things in their mouths, dirt and household dust are among the main sources of lead for children under six years of age. Dusting, vacuuming and wet-mopping will all help to keep down levels of dust.”
How to know if you have a problem
If you think the paint in your home may contain lead, have it tested. A certified inspector can measure paint lead levels in your home, or you can mail paint chip samples to a testing laboratory.
To find an inspector or laboratory in your area, contact the Standards Council of Canada or the Canadian Association for Laboratory Accreditation Search online or check your local telephone directory for Laboratories – Analytical and Testing.
Be sure to contact the lab first, and follow all directions for gathering and sending the paint chips.
What you can do if you have lead-based paint
If the lead-based paint is in good condition and is not on a surface that a child might chew, your risk is minimal. It’s best to leave it alone, paint over it, or cover it with wallpaper, wallboard or paneling.
If the lead-based paint is cracking, chipping, flaking or peeling, or if it is on a surface that a child might chew, here is how you can remove the paint:
Do not use sanders, heat guns or blowlamps to remove paint in older homes. This can create dust and fumes that contain lead.
Use a chemical paint stripper, ideally one with a paste that can be applied with a brush.
Paint strippers also contain substances that may be harmful, so use them carefully. Keep children and pregnant women away from the work area and always wear goggles, gloves and a good-quality breathing mask. See the safe use of paint strippers for more information.
See Health Canada’s fact sheet lead-based paint before starting any renovation project in an older home.
Lead in plumbing
Plumbing systems in some homes may be connected to the water mains with lead pipes (also called lead service lines). The National Plumbing Code allowed lead as a material in pipes until 1975 and allowed the use of lead-based solder in plumbing until 1986. Some other brass plumbing parts or faucets may also contain lead. This lead can leach into drinking water if it has been sitting in the pipes for several hours.
How to know if you have a problem
You can check with the Halifax municipality or water utility to see if there are lead service lines in your area. A plumber or a home inspector (link to your page) can identify whether your service line (supply pipe) is made of lead. You can also look at the pipe entering your home, and if it is a greyish-black metal, that is soft and easily dented when scraped with a knife, it is likely made of or contains lead.
If there are lead service lines or other lead-based materials in your plumbing system, you can have your tap water tested for lead content. Some towns and cities have an established sampling program, while others may sample and test it if you ask them.
Contact your local Public Health Department if you’re concerned about high lead levels in your home’s drinking water.
What you can do if you have lead in your plumbing
- Always let tap water run until it is cold before using it for drinking, cooking and especially for making baby formula. This is very important after water has been sitting in the pipes for long periods of time, like first thing in the morning.
- Don’t use water from the hot water tap for cooking or drinking. Use cold water instead.
- If you have a lead service line, the best solution is to have it replaced, but there is a cost to the home owner and the municipality.
- Ask your municipality about programs or incentives for replacing lead service lines.
- Clean out aerators or screens at the tap regularly to remove any debris that could also contain lead.
- Replace any brass faucets or valves with fittings that are certified for use with drinking water.
- A water filter at the tap can serve as a temporary solution, but this will require proper maintenance and testing to ensure it is working. Make sure any such device is certified to the NSF International standard for removal of lead.
See also: Water Talk: Minimizing Exposure to Lead from Drinking Water Distribution Systems
See below links for references and more information
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