You’ve just rented an apartment or house and, like anyone else, you’re excited to move in and make that house a home. There’s so much to figure out when deciding on a place to live that it’s easy to overlook certain things on your checklist. Have you forgotten to check for lead-based paint? Please don’t because deteriorated lead-based paint and lead dust is extremely toxic and can cause your child long-term neurological and physiological harm.
If your rental apartment or rental home was built before 1978, your landlord must provide you with a Lead Warning Statement and disclose any known lead-based paint at the property. If your landlord knows there is lead-based paint at the property, they must also provide you with all inspection reports in their possession. Importantly, your landlord must also provide you with the EPA pamphlet Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home.
Unfortunately, not all landlords are that forthcoming or honest. Many fail to disclose the threat of lead-based paint and refuse to acknowledge what all landlords must know law – that every residential property built before 1978 is presumed to have lead-based paint as a matter of law. Many landlords also ignore the requirement under federal law that they provide every prospective tenant with the EPA pamphlet Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home before the tenant is obligated under their lease.
Now, not all lead-based paint is dangerous. Lead-based paint that is intact, smooth and in good condition is not a threat. The problem arises when lead-based paint is exposed to young children through the deteriorating effects of sun, wind, rain, inclement weather, wear and tear, friction or impact. Under those circumstances, lead-based paint can become exposed, begin to deteriorate and expose microscopic particles of lead that can be ingested by your child through normal hand-to-mouth (or anything to mouth!) behavior. Even microscopic particles of lead are enough to cause permanent harm.
The challenge is that lead paint is often difficult to recognize, which is why people have lead inspections conducted by CA Department of Public Health certified lead inspectors. However, there are strong indicators of the presence of lead paint. Here are a few things you can look for and do to protect your family:
Look for a scaly “alligator” appearance. When lead-based paint ages, it oftentimes gives the appearance of scales and “alligators” into little squares.
Look for white, chalky paint under more recent layers of paint. Lead-based paint was used extensively from 1900 to 1978 when it was banned by the Consumer Products Safety Commission. Back in the day, the majority of lead-based paint used on wood surfaces was white. So, if you see white under deteriorated, peeling, chalking or cracking paint on a home that was built before 1978, chances are its lead-based paint.
Look for friction or impact surfaces. A significant source of lead dust comes from friction and impact surfaces. Friction and impact surfaces include double-hung windows, other types of wood windows, cabinets, drawers, steps, bannisters, thresholds and doors. All of these surfaces experience wear and tear through friction and impact which can expose under layers of dangerous lead-based paint.
Purchase a test kit. You can purchase a lead-based paint test kit from any hardware store for less than $10. Although not the same as a professional lead inspection, they can give you a heads-up that the top layer of paint contains lead.
Protect Your Children – Become a Lead Detective!
Just because a seller or landlord has stated he does not know if your rental apartment or home has lead-based paint doesn’t mean you can’t do your own due diligence. There are ways to detect lead paint so that you can act to keep your family safe from lead-related hazards. Follow the above rules to protect your family, protect your children and protect your home. If you have any questions, call the lead poisoning attorneys at Riley | Ersoff LLP.