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Lead in a home is a risk that should not be overlooked. It can cause serious health problems, especially for children. What you need to know to protect yourself.
Why is there lead in our homes?
Lead is a metal used since Antiquity in many applications. Very resistant to corrosion, it has long been used for the manufacture of water pipes and as a pigment for paints (white lead), particularly in the 19th century and during the first half of the 20th century, despite its long-term toxicity.
The health hazards of lead
Indeed, regular exposure to lead can lead to many health problems grouped under the term "lead poisoning" and which can become very serious for the nervous system, the kidneys, the blood, the digestive system and for the reproductive system. Lead can enter the body through the nose (dust, smoke) or the mouth (dirty hands, contaminated food). However, it does not pass through the skin. It causes serious illnesses by accumulating in the body, especially in the bones, where it can remain for several decades. It is eliminated very slowly. Children are particularly sensitive to lead poisoning, which can result in effects on the central nervous system, which are all the more important when the subject is young.
Lead in pre-1948 homes
In old houses built until 1948 and even more until 1915, or 32% of the French housing stock, lead was commonly used in paints (white lead) and plasters, even if it is also found in water, in particular. It allowed a good protection of the supports and a good behavior of the paintings. These remaining coatings can degrade over time and moisture. The scales and dust released are then a source of intoxication.
Risk of lead accessibility and real estate purchase
This is why it is important in a contract of sale or a promise to sell real estate, to append a statement of the risks of accessibility to lead as soon as one buys a good built before 1948, more still if this one is located in an area at risk of exposure to lead delimited by prefectural decree (22 departments to date are concerned by lead in water).
Getting rid of lead in our homes
To get rid of lead and the dangers it represents: redo the plumbing using new materials and remove the paints to replace them with others. But beware, these works must be carried out by professionals! While waiting for definitive work, it is possible to cover degraded surfaces (paints, glass canvases, wallpaper, etc.) or to double them (wooden or plaster panels, encapsulation, etc.).