Testing Your Home
If your home was built before 1978, strongly consider testing your home for lead-based paint. Contact your local health department to find out about testing your home.
When should you test?
- If you have areas of deteriorating paint
- Before purchasing or leasing a home
- The disclosure law allows you 10 days from the time of signing your purchase agreement to test for lead. If you find lead, you have the opportunity to change the agreement.
- If you have small children or you are expecting a baby
- Before starting renovation
- After renovation is complete
- If a child tests positive for lead-poisoning: If the child’s lead level is greater than or equal to 10 micrograms per deciliter, Ohio law requires a public health investigation in order to find the source of the lead. If lead in your home is considered to have caused the poisoning, you will be required to remove or control the hazard. The home will be re-tested to ensure that the lead-hazard has been removed.
Where should you test?
- Test areas in your home where dust is likely to collect, such as window sills and troughs, baseboards, mantelpieces, and bookcases.
- Test painted areas that undergo friction, such as doors, windows, thresholds, floors, stair treads, and porches. See the EPA’s Renovate Right booklet to learn more.
- You need to know if lead is present in the areas that will be part of your project so that you can control the lead dust. If this is a do-it-yourself job, you may want to re-test these areas after the project is completed before returning them to regular use.
- The plumbing in some old houses contain lead. See the EPA’s information on lead in drinking water for more information.
- Soil outside your home can also be contaminated with lead. See Lead in the Home Garden and Urban Soil Environment from the University of Minnesota.
Inspections and Risk Assessments
A paint inspection can tell you the lead content of every type of painted surface in your home (surfaces covered with varnish, stain, and wallpaper can also be tested, because they can also contain lead). It will tell you where you will need to use lead-safe work practices. It won’t tell you whether the paint is a hazard or how you should deal with it. Paint inspections are conducted by certified inspectors or certified risk-assessors.
A risk assessment tells you if there are any current lead-hazards in your home from paint, dust, or soil. The assessment will also tell you what actions to take to address any hazards. Risk assessments are conducted by certified risk-assessors. Certified inspectors and risk assessors are professionals with extensive training.
See the Environmental Licensing Search database of the Ohio Department of Health to find inspectors and risk-assessors.
Testing Lead-Based Paint
There are different types of tests used in different situations and by different lead-test professionals.
Visual inspection. Visual inspections reveal the condition and locations of paint in a pre-1978 home that are assumed to contain lead. It is suggested that you conduct a visual inspection of these areas each year, paying special attention to areas where repairs and improvements involving painted surfaces have been made.
Surface spot-tests. You can perform these tests yourself with an EPA-approved surface spot-test kit available from most hardware and home-improvement stores. An RRP-certified renovator uses the EPA-approved spot-test kit to test the surfaces and components of your home prior to renovation on a pre-1978 home.
Paint-chip analysis. State licensed lead professionals remove chips of paint and send them to an EPA-recognized laboratory for analysis. Removal of the chips may release lead dust, so the professional will clean the area according to EPA rules.
X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF). State licensed lead-test professionals use portable X-Ray Flourescence machines to analyze paint surfaces and determine their lead-content. X-Ray Flourescence does not disturb lead paint, as paint-chip analysis does, but the results may not be as accurate.
Cleaning verification. After clean up at the end of a renovation subject to the RRP Rule, a certified renovator wipes the surfaces in the work-area with wet cleaning cloths and compares them visually to a cleaning verification card. Cleaning verification cards are available from EPA by contacting the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323).
Dust wipe tests. Dust is collected from different areas of the home on special cloths and sent to an EPA-approved lab for analysis. This type of test is strongly recommended when a young child or pregnant woman lives in the home.
Testing under the EPA’s Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule
If using an RRP-certified contractor for a renovation on a pre-1978 home, they must either test for lead in the area to be renovated with an EPA-approved test kit or assume the presence of lead and use lead-safe work practices. If the test shows that the area contains lead, and the area to be renovated is over a certain minimum amount, then the RRP-certified renovator must use lead-safe work practices.
- The RRP certified-renovator will perform a cleaning-verification test and re-clean the work-area until it passes.
- If the renovated areas fail the lead-tests, they should be re-cleaned.
- For exterior work, only a visual inspection for dust, paint chips or debris is required.
For more information on RRP, see the EPA’s RRP Rule in Laws and Regulations.