Lead in your home

Lead in your home

Lead has been recorded as being used in paint as early as the fourth century BC, but many countries have now banned its use. We explain where lead may be found in your home, what the symptoms of lead poisoning are, and what to do if you think it is present.

Signs your home may have lead in it

It is actually impossible to identify whether your property is contaminated with lead without testing for it. However, there are signs to look out for which may help identify lead contamination.

First, find out when your home was built. If it has original paint and was built before the 1980s, it is best to presume that your home was painted with lead-based paint.

Where is lead found in New Zealand homes?

Lead paint

Until lead was identified as a health hazard in the 1960s, it was used in most household paints. There are still some special-purpose paints out there that contain red lead, but these must be carefully labelled.

Clause 23 of the Lead Process Regulations 1950 clearly states that no person shall import, store, transport, or sell paint containing any lead product otherwise than in a receptacle on which is conspicuously written in capital letters of not less than 24 points face measurement of words “This paint contains lead”

Lead in soil

Deposits from leaded fuel, exterior lead-based paint and industrial sources have contributed to increased levels of lead in the soil all over New Zealand. Due to the regular occurrence of children putting things in their mouths, the soil being one of them, this puts young children in danger of being poisoned by lead.

Lead plumbing

In the past, lead was used in the construction industry for water pipes, faucets and plumbing fixtures. Most New Zealand homes built before 1986 still have copper pipes connected with lead-based welding solder, plumbing fixtures and other pipe fittings.

New Zealand homes are now built with copper, stainless steel or plastic water pipes. However, the water pipes leading to your home can bring lead-contaminated drinking water into your home.

Master Plumbers have been advocating for a reduction or elimination of taps/faucets sold with any lead content and the same goes for brass.

Children’s toys

Just as lead can be in house paint, it can also be found in the paint used on children’s toys. Lead can also be found in the plastic body of toys. Due to the fact children love to chew or suck on everything they can, lead poisoning is a very real threat when it comes to children.

Dishware, pottery and glass

It was very common to use lead when creating pottery, pewter, leaded crystal, ceramic and glass dishware in the past. There are still many countries around the world that use lead in their process as it is known to make the product more durable.

Can I paint over lead paint?

The process of painting over lead-based paint is called encapsulation and can be effective if done correctly. Encapsulation is less expensive than lead paint removal, and it can be safer as it does not release lead dust or debris into the air.

However, lead paint can not always be encapsulated. If your lead-based paint is peeling or flaking off, it is not recommended to encapsulate it. It is also important to note that you cannot encapsulate lead paint surfaces if it is walked on, rubbed together or badly deteriorated.

When is lead testing required?

There is no specified time that you should test for lead, however, if you plan on renovating your home and it was built before the 1980s, it may pay to have your paint tested. Another reason people might have their paint tested for lead is if they are experiencing lead poisoning symptoms.

Side effects of lead paint in the home

Anyone can be exposed to lead poisoning, however, the risk is much higher for young children. Lead poisoning can be passed on to an unborn child through the mother’s blood. Exposure to lead can cause premature birth or low birth weight, as well as later problems with development.

High levels of lead in young children can cause the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pains
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite

If lead poisoning is left untreated it can lead to brain damage or worse, death. Below is a list of symptoms that adults may have if poisoned by lead:

  • Mood changes (such as depression or irritability)
  • Memory impairment
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Headaches
  • Tingling and numbness in fingers and hands
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Stomach pains
  • Weight loss

Lead has been poisoning people for centuries, but now we have the technology to test for it and help heal the body from it. If you are worried that your house may be contaminated with lead, contact us today to book your inspection 0800 422 386 or info@bettagroup.co.nz.