Lead-based paint covers both the interior and exterior surfaces of many old San Franciscan homes — at least in underlying layers. Exposure to lead paint can be extremely dangerous, leading to impairment of physical and mental development in young children and a possible increase in high blood pressure in adults. Because of these health threats, the EPA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Consumer Product Safety Commission have all moved to restrict people’s exposure to lead.
- How can you tell if your home contains lead paint?
The presence of old lead-based paint in housing is the most significant remaining cause of lead poisoning, particularly in young children. The principal means of exposure is through ingestion of peeling or pulverized paint in older and poorly maintained housing. For example, poisoning often results from young children chewing on surfaces such as windowsills and banisters covered with imperfectly intact lead-based paint.
There are various do-it-yourself test kits available at hardware stores, but these are not always accurate. The only way to definitively know whether or not paint contains lead is to have a professional analysis done. See the California Department of Health Services online list of “Certified Inspector/Assessors for San Francisco and the Peninsula” who can "safely and accurately inspect your home for lead.” For more information, or to request a list by mail, call the Lead-Related Construction Information Line at (800) 597-5323. However, before actually hiring anyone, see the Health Services’ detailed advice on "Finding a Certified Lead Professional”.
- What should you do if lead paint is found in your home?
If your inspection results indicate a harmful level of lead, your inspector/assessor will advise you on your options for reducing exposure. If the lead paint in question is in poor condition or children or pregnant women live in the house, mitigation — as soon as possible — is extremely important.