Lead Based Paint in Your Apartment?

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Lead-based paint, which contains measurable quantities of lead, has the potential to be a health hazard. Use of the paint in residential buildings was outlawed in the late 1970’s, but many older residences may still contain lead-based paint. Read on for general information about lead-based paint and specifics regarding your landlord’s responsibilities in relation to this issue.

Health Hazards

The ingestion of lead through lead dust or paint chips poses a significant health hazard; children are more negatively affected than adults because they absorb more lead into their bloodstream. Children can absorb 30 to 75 percent of the lead that reaches their digestive tracts, while adults absorb closer to 11 percent. Lead disrupts brain chemistry, interfering with the function of neurotransmitters. High levels of lead in a child’s bloodstream can lead to brain damage, nervous system problems, learning disabilities, behavioral issues like hyperactivity, stunted growth, hearing issues, and headaches. In adults, lead poisoning can cause reproductive issues (including miscarriage or stillbirth), hypertension, digestive issues, nerve problems, muscle and joint pain, and difficulties remembering information or concentrating. Extremely high levels of lead can cause anemia and affect kidney function, and can so damage the nervous system as to lead to seizures, coma, and death. To determine whether you or a family member may have high lead levels in your blood, talk to your physician about getting a blood test to detect the presence of lead.

Rules & Regulations

It wasn’t until 1978 that the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned paint with more than 0.06 percent lead from being used in new homes. However, by that time, there were already many homes painted with dangerous levels of lead. Despite this danger, it took until 1992 to pass the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act, which required property sellers and renters to notify buyers and tenants about lead-based paint and related hazards. In 1996, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Environmental Protection Agency published lead-based paint disclosure regulations that fully implemented the 1992 Act. Potential buyers or tenants must receive a brochure (approved by the EPA) on identifying and addressing lead paint problems, and potential sellers or landlords must disclose all known information regarding lead-based paint on the property. Based on this information, home buyers may have ten days to check for the presence of lead in the home before making a purchasing decision. Renters are not entitled to the same type of time period to verify the presence of lead.

In addition to notifying potential residents of the presence of lead-based paint, landlords may also be required to remove or cover lead-based paint in leased areas, particularly those that will be occupied by children under the age of six. Laws may vary by state, but a New York court held a landlord ultimately responsible for the removal of lead-based paint from a unit he was renting.

When to Worry

Lead-based paint itself is not usually an issue; the paint chips and dust that humans can ingest are the major problem. Lead paint on building exteriors can also leech into soil around the structure, creating hazards for gardeners or for children playing in the dirt. If you’re worried about lead paint in your apartment, inform your landlord, who should hire a professional to do an inspection that will determine whether you have cause to be concerned.

Taking Action

Since you’re an apartment-dweller, the responsibility for maintaining the safety of your home rests with your landlord. If your apartment contains lead-based paint, your landlord should have notified you and should be taking steps to protect your safety. Other precautionary measures you can take include cleaning your apartment carefully to prevent the accumulation of leaded paint chips or dust, removing shoes to avoid tracking in lead-contaminated dirt, preventing children from chewing on painted surfaces, and washing hands frequently to avoid contamination if by chance you have come into contact with lead. If you have young children in your home, it may be safest to simply avoid apartment complexes containing lead-based paint.

If you have concerns about lead-based paint in your living areas, notify your landlord. Your landlord can take steps to test the levels of lead in the apartment complex and, if necessary, eliminate lead paint from all units. Lead paint cannot be gotten rid of with some removal methods, like sanding, as this creates too much dangerous dust. Improper removal can create an even greater health hazard. Your landlord needs to hire a certified lead abatement specialist to safely remove or seal off any lead-based paint, increasing the safety of your living area. Note that working with lead-based paint is dangerous and requires workers to take various precautions of which certified lead removal professionals should be aware.

Should your landlord fail to take action on removing or covering lead-based paint after you inform him or her of your concerns, have a health and safety professional inspect the apartment. If dangerous levels of lead are found, notify your landlord and allow reasonable time to address the problem. If your landlord still doesn’t take action, you may want to move the matter to court. Consult with local tenants’ rights organizations or legal aid to find out what you can do in this situation.

Lead-based paint is a hazard that can be corrected. Knowing about the risks to your health and the responsibilities of your landlord will allow you to live safely and with the assurance that you’ve taken all possible steps to reduce the ability of lead-based paint to affect yourself and your family.

11 Responses to “Lead Based Paint in Your Apartment?”

  1. July 18, 2006 at 10:02 pm, Guest said:

    I have been living in the same apartment for about 2 years now and was informed about the lead paint upon moving in. I was told that it had been painted over but there are numerous places in the apartment with chipping paint. I am now concerned about this because I am pregnant and want to ensure the safety of my child before and after birth. I welcome any advice anyone has for me on this situation. My e-mail is mana11185@aol.com. Thank you for taking the time to read this and I appreciate any help you can provide.

    -Amanda

    Reply

  2. October 24, 2006 at 8:31 pm, Guest said:

    As my daughter’s room was being painted, my husband noticed a green substance growing on certain walls. He painted over it several times until it eventually disappeared. A month has passed, and now the green substance is showing through the paint. Is this a form of lead in our apartment? I truly would appreciate any advice. My e-mail is yasg1020@yahoo.com. Thanks, Yasmin

    Reply

  3. December 17, 2006 at 7:39 pm, Guest said:

    I had that same problem in one of my houses and it wasn’t lead in fact it was mold and very hazardous.

    Reply

  4. December 23, 2006 at 2:24 pm, Guest said:

    We have scraped the old wallpaper off in our bedroom to reveal green paint. i’ve heard somewhere that lead based paint was green coated. Is this true?

    Reply

  5. August 25, 2007 at 1:50 pm, Guest said:

    Amanda,
    Move, it will be nearly impossible to protect your child once they can crawl, and extremely difficult while you’re pregnant. While you find a new place, have someone vaccum and dust frequently for you while YOU ARE NOT PRESENT; dust with lead in it can be inhaled and cause damage to your unborn child. Wash your hands frequently, especially before you eat or drink anything.
    Good luck to you and congratulations on the baby!
    Nicole

    Reply

  6. February 18, 2008 at 4:20 pm, Guest said:

    I’ve beening living in my apartment for just a month now and was told today we have lead paint. I have a 16 month old child. They knew it had lead paint but didn’t tell us until today. A month has gone by, what is my rights? I’m going to have my daughter tested now with this information just given to me.

    Reply

  7. August 07, 2008 at 5:15 pm, Guest said:

    to the individual who just moved in and was told a month later about lead, you can report them to the epa. You can also sue them for damages if your child comes back sick. They are required to inform you at move in about lead based paint./

    Reply

  8. January 02, 2009 at 11:47 am, Guest said:

    I MOVED IN MY APT ON NOV 1, 2005 AND EVERY TIME I GET CRACKS IN THE WALL I LET THE SUPER KNOW. WHEN THEY DONT ATTEND TO THE COMPLAINT I CALL 311 AND EVERY TIME THEY FIND LEAD. 1ST IN THE KITCHEN NOW ITS IN MY BED ROOM AND IM SCARED FOR MY SON WHO WAS BORN ON NOV 19,2005 AND MY TWO DAUGTERS ONE OF WHICH HAVE BAD HEADACHES THAT COULD BE DUE TO THE LEAD IN THE HOUSE. I FEEL THAT 311 NEEDS TO CHECK APTMENTS OUT THAT WAS BLUID A LONG TIME AGO. ALONG WITH THE INPECTION PEOPLE BEFORE THEY ALLOW PEOPLE TO LIVE THERE. NOW IM AFRAID FOR MY OWN HEALTH AND IM 32 YEARS OLD. THE LONGER YOU LIVE IN THESE CONDITIONS THE MORE YOUR LIFE ON EARTH IS SHORTEN.

    Reply

  9. June 16, 2013 at 11:46 pm, Jena Skivington said:

    Lead is extremely dangerous to children and women who are pregnant. DO NOT ignore the issue. If you are not getting the attention from your landlord, take action or get out of the apartment. Lead can have a serious affect on your health and the health of your children, whether the paint is peeling or not. There are affordable products out there that can help in the meantime. Ecobond LBP is a formula that you can apply directly over lead paint. It will seal and treat the lead and and eliminate up to 99% of airborne lead dust. It’s very affordable and will dramatically lesson the hazards associated with exposure.

    Reply

  10. February 03, 2014 at 8:35 am, Rimshah said:

    To the person inquiring about the green paint underneath wallpaper, yes, it’s probably lead paint. Practically every building built before 1978 in America has some lead paint if not exclusively lead paint. Even some buildings built as late as the 80s and 90s may contain lead paint which was bought prior to 1978 and stored away in a garage for later use.

    Reply

  11. April 04, 2014 at 5:36 pm, Up to Code: 5 Red Flags for Apartment Dwellers | Home Inspections Real Estate said:

    [...] law mandates that all landlords disclose the presence of lead-based paints in their rental units. If your landlord doesn’t volunteer this information, ask for it. Lead [...]

    Reply

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