The truth is also, that when it comes to paint, lead compounds are commonly used the world over in the form of pigments, which are
used to colour paint. Some countries have agreed on “safe” limits for paint manufacturers to use as a guideline, and it’s widely agreed
that the elimination and reduction of the use of lead compounds in consumer products like paint forms part of adhering to a responsible
There is, however, more to lead poisoning than the tabloids are telling us and what follows are some facts that will
help you gain perspective.
A summary of the current, up-to-date information on lead is necessary to get
the proper perspective. Firstly, it should be understood that lead has accumulative (chronic) toxicity and can collect in the body.
Lead is a naturally occurring element and is found throughout nature. Our bodies can handle small amounts of lead and if we intake
a small amount our body simply excretes it. If, however, the intake is excessive, the lead will accumulate over a period of time and
there will be side effects.
Metabolic differences affect lead absorption
A same amount of ingested or inhaled lead will
not affect adults and children equally, because of the physiological differences between them. Metabolic differences between children
and adults also mean that the effects of lead upon children are exacerbated. Lead causes irreversible nervous system damage and decreased
intelligence in children, even at very low doses.
Curiosity can be a killer
Children have a tendency to put strange things
in their mouths, and many years ago, children were in the habit of chewing on painted wooden windowsills, because the compound of
the lead in the paint used as wood primers had a sweet taste. This resulted in many deaths and raised the concern about the effects
of lead in paint on children.
Soluble… or not?
Lead is easily soluble even in water, which makes it very toxic. It is the
solubility of certain lead compounds in the acid of the stomach that makes it so dangerous to us. If the lead is in such a form that
it is not soluble in stomach acids, then there is no danger. It is therefore perfectly safe to continue using Granny’s beautiful lead
crystal glassware. It has been established that lead solubility in acid is the deciding factor when determining the danger levels
of a lead compound, because the stomach acids can render the lead soluble and in doing so, make it toxic. In this way it is not the
total amount of lead that is found in paint that’s important, but the amount of soluble lead, and accordingly, this is the definition
given in the lead regulations.
Manufacturers take a stand
Manufacturers belonging to SAPMA (South African Paint Manufacturers
Association) have acknowledged that 0.01% is the suitable limit of leads in dried paints. Lead is so widespread that it is virtually
impossible to call anything ‘Lead free’ and for this reason most manufacturers prefer to use the term ‘No added lead’ when referring
to this subject. Paints outside this limit are generally safe for ordinary use, but should be excluded from use on articles that could
be chewed on by children and babies. Products over this limit should therefore be clearly labelled with a warning that the paint is
not suitable to be used on anything that can possibly be chewed or sucked on by children.
Lead in paint stabilises bright colours
the use of red and white lead in primers or undercoats, lead based pigments still remain to be the most cost-effective method of obtaining
stable, bright and durable paint colours, particularly for colours such as yellow, red and green.
Lead is all around us
needs to be understood is that thousands of tons of lead have been and are distributed through car exhausts. The plant life that surrounds
us absorbs some of it and so it gets integrated into the food chain. In addition, the lead content in the ground, particularly in
areas where gold mining and uranium extraction have been prevalent for decades, exacerbates the issue even further. Attempting to
draw attention away from this fact by blaming paint is counterproductive. The damage has already been done and the emphasis now needs
to be placed on minimising the effects.
Where is Lead Found?
In general, the older your home, the more likely it has lead-based
paint exceeding 600ppm. The South African government limited the use of lead in lead-based paint from housing in 2013.
can be found:
- In homes in the city, country and suburbs;
- On apartments, single-family homes, and both private and public housing complexes;
the interior and exterior of the house;
- In the soil around a home. Soil can pick up lead from exterior paint and other sources,
such as past use of leaded gas in cars;
- In household dust. Dust can pick up lead from deteriorating lead-based paint and from soil
tracked into a home;
- In drinking water. Your home might have plumbing that uses lead pipes or lead solder. Call your local health department
or water supplier to find out about testing your water. You cannot see, smell or taste lead, and boiling your water will not get rid
of lead. If you think your plumbing might have lead in it:
- use only cold water for drinking and cooking.
- run water for 15 to 30 seconds
before drinking it, especially if you have not used your water for a few hours.
- At work. If you work with lead, you could bring it
home on your hands or clothes. Shower and change clothes before coming home. Launder your work clothes separately from the rest of
your family's clothes;
- In old (vintage or antique) painted toys and furniture;
- From lead smelters and other industries that release
lead into the air;
- With hobbies that use lead, such as making pottery or stained glass, or refinishing furniture.
you suspect that the paint in your home may be lead based paints have qualified professionals do the work. There are standards in
place for certifying lead-based paint professionals to ensure that the work is done safely, reliably and effectively. Be sure to ask
your InterNACHI inspector about lead paint during your next inspection. Trained professionals use a range of methods when checking
your home, including:
- a visual inspection of paint condition and location;
- lab tests of paint samples; and
- surface-dust tests.
You Can Do to Protect Your Family
- Clean up paint chips immediately.
- Clean floors, window frames, window sills, and other surfaces weekly.
Use a mop, sponge or paper towel with warm water and a general all-purpose cleaner.Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads after cleaning
dirty and dusty areas.
- Wash children's hands often, especially before they eat, and before nap time and bed time.
- Keep play areas clean.
Wash bottles, pacifiers, toys and stuffed animals regularly.
- Keep children from chewing window sills and other painted surfaces.
or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from soil.
- Make sure children eat nutritious, low-fat meals high
in iron and calcium, such as spinach and dairy products. Children with good diets absorb less lead.
From articles by the International
Association of Certified Home Inspectors and Jack's Paint
I can help you identify those areas of your home that might
have lead paint, or other sources of lead, that may be a danger to you and your family.