Up until the late 1970s, many interior house paints were lead-based. When the paint peels or flakes off a wall or other surface children frequently pick it up and chew on it. It also creates dust, which has a high concentration of lead. In its efforts to confront skyrocketing numbers of cases of lead poisoning in children, in 1978 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the use of lead in paints used in residences. If you own a home built before 1978, the chances are good that it contains lead-based paint. While there are several ways to deal with this health hazard, sealing the painted surface with acrylic primer is not one of them.
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An encapsulant is a substance made specifically to seal lead paint to keep it from chipping. Unlike acrylic primer, the encapsulant actually bonds to the lead pain. Depending upon the type of encapsulant used, it is either painted or sprayed on the surface, or spread on with a trowel. Encapsulants can only be used on an intact surface – without cracks or peeling areas. The application of encapsulants is regulated by state departments of health and requires inspections and application by a person who meets the manufacturer’s specifications.
The safest way to deal with lead paint is to enclose it. This involves covering the lead-based painted surface with plaster, paneling or wallboard. This helps ensure that activities around the wall or other surface don’t disturb the paint, causing it to peel or emit dust from paint particles. Ensure that the material used to enclose the surface is durable and fireproof. If the enclosure is ever damaged or removed, the lead-based paint hazard may return.
The process of removing lead-based paint is hazardous, as it may involve sanding or otherwise disturbing the paint. Removal of the surface requires employing a professional with the proper equipment and training to do the job as safely as possible. The abatement specialist typically removes all items from the room requiring treatment and then seals it off from the rest of the house with heavy plastic and duct tape. The job is dangerous and time-consuming and the safety of the residents is of primary concern.
The price of lead-based paint abatement is prohibitive to many homeowners. Living with the hazards the paint presents is worrisome. The experts at Colorado State University offer several suggestions to keep the family safe in a home that contains lead paint. Use duct tape to pick up any chips from the floor. Use a damp paper towel to wipe down windowsills to remove paint dust. Mop the floors at least once a week with a solution of trisodium phosphate (TSP) or high-phosphate dishwasher detergent. Use a bucket of clean water to mop up the soapy water.