Depending on your age, you may or may not be familiar with lead-based paint. Once a common feature in homes across the country, the use of lead in paint products (it made paint more durable and helped it to dry faster) was restricted in 1976 under the Hazardous Products Act. High levels of lead were found to be dangerous to humans, particularly to children and unborn babies. According to the Health Canada website, lead poisoning can cause anaemia (a deficiency of red blood cells) as well as brain and nervous system damage. Symptoms include headaches, vomiting, abdominal pain, slowed speech development and learning difficulties, among others.
If your home was built before 1960, lead-based paint was likely used. If built between 1960 and 1990, the exterior of your home may contain lead-based paint but the paint on interior surfaces should either contain small amounts of lead or be lead-free. If you want to find out whether your home contains lead paint, you can send paint chip samples to a lab for analysis or hire a contractor who has the proper x-ray equipment to detect lead on painted surfaces.
In some circumstances, it is more hazardous to remove lead-based paint than leave it undisturbed. According to Health Canada, even small amounts of dust with lead are dangerous to infants and children.
If you do decide to remove lead-based paint from your home, here are some tips provided by Health Canada for safe removal:
- Keep pregnant women and children out of the home.
- Hire an expert to do the job.
- Do not use sanders, heat guns, or blowlamps. All produce toxic dust and fumes.
- Remove all furnishings from the room prior to starting.
- Isolate the work area with heavy-duty plastic sheets.
- Ensure the work area is well ventilated.
- Wear goggles and a good quality breathing mask.
- Take frequent breaks in fresh air.
- Don’t eat or drink while removing paint.
Houses built after 1990 will not contain lead because all consumer paints produced in Canada and the U.S. were virtually lead-free by this time.