North Dakota Residents Cautioned About Lead-Based Paint

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

In conjunction with Home Indoor Air Quality Month, the North Dakota Department of Health is cautioning residents about the dangers of lead-based paint. Governor John Hoeven has proclaimed October 2008 as Home Indoor Air Quality Month to encourage North Dakotans to learn more about indoor air quality issues.

Lead is a highly toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around homes, such as paint and linoleum. Lead can cause a range of health effects, from behavioral problems and learning disabilities to seizures and death. Children 7 and younger are at the most risk for health effects from lead. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 300,000 children younger than 5 in the United States have blood lead levels greater than the maximum recommended level.

Although residential use of lead-based paint was banned in 1978, it is still the most common source of lead in the home. Lead-based paint is found in many places in and around older homes; for example, interior and exterior walls, ceilings, stairways, door and window trim, and baseboards.


According to the Department of Health, all lead-based paint surfaces should be inspected regularly to look for signs of wear or disintegration. Any lead-based painted surface that shows signs of deterioration can easily release lead into the environment. In particular, watch for hazardous conditions such as chipping, flaking and water damage. Any damaged lead-based paint should be repaired immediately. Paint chips containing lead are a hazard if eaten. Lead-based paint also contributes to another serious hazard – lead dust. Lead dust is easily inhaled or swallowed and can be scattered throughout the house, where it can get on toys, floors, play areas, soil and food.

"Any home remodeling project that disturbs lead-based paint in a home built before 1978 should be carried out properly to avoid exposing occupants to lead," said State Health Officer Terry Dwelle, M.D., M.P.H.T.M. "Children and pregnant women should never be around renovation or remodeling projects that create lead dust."

The North Dakota Department of Health recommends that homeowners test paint for the presence of lead before beginning a renovation project. If lead is present, special precautions should be taken to protect children in the home from the risks of lead poisoning. Renovation work should proceed only when those performing the work are well aware of the hazards and are knowledgeable about how to reduce or minimize the risk.

If lead-based paint is a risk in the home, there are several ways to reduce the hazard. Removal of the lead-based paint may be necessary and should be done only by a trained professional. Sometimes, painted surfaces can be sealed with good quality paint or covered with other material such as drywall or paneling. Good maintenance and housekeeping practices, especially wet cleaning to reduce lead dust, can help control the risk of lead dust and childhood lead poisoning.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has developed guidelines for managing the risks of lead during renovation projects. The guidelines include recommendations for minimizing the spread of lead dust, limiting the amount of lead dust produced, protecting the workers from lead hazards, and cleaning up during and after the work project.