Lead Paint 101: What Does Lead Paint Look Like?

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Lead paint was banned in 1978, but buildings constructed before this point may contain lead, making it important to identify the signs of lead paint.
  • There are some signs that may indicate paint in your home is lead-based, like cracking and peeling in the paint, or unexplained health symptoms. 
  • The best and most effective way to identify lead paint in a building is through professional testing.
  • If you have lead on your property, you should contact a professional lead remediation service to address the issue and ensure the building is safe.

Lead paint was outlawed for use in homes and businesses in 1978 by the US government. However, many buildings used this paint before then, so it’s important for home and business owners to be able to identify the presence of lead paint in case their property is one of them.

On the bright side, there are a few signs that can tell you if paint may contain lead and whether you should seek professional testing easily identifiable if you know what to look for. 

From there, you can take on effective remediation efforts to have any lead paint either removed or safely covered. Having the support and assistance of a professional service will help you identify whether you have lead paint and ensure that you can breathe confidently in your space.

How To Identify Lead Paint

Ultimately, the only way to unmistakably identify lead paint is through lead testing, but there are some quick signs you can look for to determine if testing is necessary.

Damaged Paint

Lead paint is often identifiable by its appearance when it’s damaged. The paint has a particular way of breaking apart as it ages. 

The most identifiable factor of lead paint is that it appears to have scales in it as it gets older—many people describe it as an alligator or crocodile like texture. It often also has a chalky texture when it rubs off.

Other signs of damaged lead paint include:

  • Peeling
  • Chipping
  • Cracking
  • Bubbling

Lead paint is the biggest threat when it turns into a dust that can be inhaled or when it chips and can be chewed. If you notice that paint in your home is damaging in any of the above ways, there’s a significant chance it may be lead paint, making lead testing for older homes necessary.

Health Symptoms

Another indicator of the presence of lead paint in your building is harsh symptoms related to lead poisoning. Lead exposure can lead to a range of health conditions.

Some symptoms of lead exposure include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea and fatigue
  • Intermittent abdominal pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Memory loss
  • Mood shifts

Lead is also particularly dangerous to children and can cause developmental delays as well as learning difficulties.

If you notice any of the above symptoms arise in anyone in your home, and they are unexplained by any other factors, you should contact a professional service as soon as possible.

Common Locations for Lead Paint

Lead paint was commonly used before 1977, so any buildings constructed before that time are at risk of containing lead paint. If you know when your property was built, you can get a leg up on determining if you need to worry about lead paint.

According to the EPA, older homes are more likely to contain lead-based paint depending on when they were constructed:

  • Between 1960 and 1977 – 24% of homes are likely to contain lead-based paint
  • Between 1940 and 1959 – 69% of homes are likely to contain lead-based paint
  • Before 1940 – 87% of homes are likely to contain lead-based paint

Once you’re aware of your home’s risk level based on its construction date, you should be aware of where you may find lead inside. There are several places on your property where you should be especially cautious.

Lead paint is commonly used in the following places:

  • Walls
  • Windows and window sills
  • Doors and door frames
  • Stairs, railings, and porches

Lead Testing and Verification

You may be able to identify signs of lead on your property just by observing the paint and its appearance, but the only true way to identify lead paint is through testing or a lead paint inspection from a trained professional with the proper tools.

There are at-home lead tests, but they’re not as effective as a professional test, as these kits can often emit false positives or false negatives. To be considered effective, test kits must meet rigid standards set by the EPA, and there are only two commonly available EPA-recognized lead test kits:

  • 3M LeadCheck
  • D-Lead

The best approach for property owners is to contact a professional service for reliable testing. They’ll have the equipment and experience to test lead paint while minimizing exposure to themselves and everyone else in the home.

Expert Support Against The Risks of Lead

From lead paint testing to soil sampling, Alpha Environmental keeps your property safe from potential lead exposure.

Is Lead Paint Still Toxic If Painted Over?

Lead paint is always toxic, but if you paint over it using the right procedures, you can seal in any potential threat and reside in a building safely. Painting over lead paint is a safe and EPA-approved lead abatement method known as “encapsulation”.

You can paint over lead as long as:

  • The paint is not cracking or peeling
  • The paint is not on a high-friction surface like floors or stairs
  • You use a proper encapsulant

Standard paints are not enough to contain lead paint underneath. Encapsulants are thicker that prevent any of the toxic metal from escaping. The best encapsulants are polymers with flexible membranes.

Ultimately, to ensure a safe encapsulation, contact a professional service. Professional lead remediation services will have access to the appropriate tools and equipment necessary to perform a thorough encapsulation while also minimizing the risk of exposure to themselves and the rest of the property.

If the paint or the surface it’s on is damaged, professional services may recommend lead paint removal to be safe.

Can You Get Lead Poisoning from One Exposure?

It is possible to get lead poisoning after one exposure if you are exposed to enough lead. Exposure can occur from a more serious incident, like ingesting larger pieces of lead chips, or contamination can also be sneaky if you inhale lead through only a little bit of dust. Today, inhaling dust is the most common source of lead poisoning.

Lead poisoning is a risk to take seriously, as it cannot be reversed. Fortunately, you can contact a professional service to support you with a lead paint test and help mitigate the risks if necessary.

Our team at Alpha Environmental is skilled and certified in handling lead contamination. We use specialized equipment like high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to completely remove the threat of lead dust and prevent unsafe exposure, all while following careful procedures to reduce the potential risks.


Protect Against Lead Paint with Alpha Environmental

Lead paint is a threat that any property owner should consider, and you can assess your risk for lead paint by carefully considering your property and looking for signs of damage or health concerns. If you think your home might have lead paint, your safest bet is to contact a professional lead remediation service for support.

Alpha Environmental has the skills and experience necessary to effectively address lead and ensure your health. We perform professional lead testing for homeowners and businesses along with lead paint removal and remediation to provide you peace of mind on your property. 

With our 21 years of experience serving home and business owners in Portland and the surrounding area with lead remediation, you can rely on us to carry out the necessary steps to keep your property safe.Contact us today to schedule a free estimate.

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