Lead is a material found naturally in the earth that has a cumulative, harmful effect on the organs of the human body. The damage it typically causes is especially compounded in young children. Yet, lead still abounds in many older homes.

How do you live in a home that contains lead? There are many ways to live a safe and healthy life in such a house. Here are some tips:

Living with Lead Paint
In homes built prior to legislation enacted in 1978, there is a good chance of finding lead paint. Lead paint may be painted over, but still present. That said, if your home is this old, and you are doing renovations, or if you have paint on the inside or outside that is peeling, chalking, or cracking, you should take precautions. Children may find lead-based paint chips and put them in their mouths. Loose, dried paint also creates dust that can be blasted throughout the air when a room is swept or vacuumed.

To keep your home safe, you need to continually check all lead-painted areas for degradation, peeling, and chipping. The suspect areas are usually places that get worn out over time, such as stairs, doors, and windows. Pick up all paint chips and scraps with a wet paper towel and throw them and the towel away. Use another damp cloth to wipe down the area. If you need to fix the issue with some sanding, make sure you wet the area first to prevent dust. To keep the situation under control, be sure to vacuum as many chips and peelings as possible. If there is dust, use a HEPA vacuum cleaner, then use a damp disposable wipe to scoop up any excess residue.

Avoiding Contaminated Soil
Peeling exterior paint, past use of leaded gas, and industrial pollution can cause the soil to become contaminated. If your yard contains contaminated soil, you will need to be careful not to track lead dust into your home. If this is an issue for you, you should not walk in the contaminated area, if at all possible. If you must, take your shoes off at your door, and wipe each down with a damp cloth each time you walk throughout the lead-saturated area.

Testing your Water
Believe it or not, lead pipes were still in use in homes until 1986. Even afterward, modern copper piping required lead solder to stay connected. Since 2014, legislation has changed that. Lead pipes and solder have been known to contaminate water when the pipes start to corrode with age. If this is the case, you will need to replace the plumbing as soon as possible. Unfortunately, you can’t taste or smell lead in your bathing and drinking water. The only way to be sure it’s there is to have your water tested by a certified laboratory. These tests range anywhere from $20 to $100.

Safely Distancing Work and Hobbies
If your work or hobbies involve lead, such as mining, smelting, refinishing antique furniture, battery-recycling, renovations, shooting/hunting, pottery, or autobody, you know that you are exposing yourself to the poisonous metal. But, how do you keep it from entering your home? First, be sure to shower thoroughly and put on a fresh set of clothes before getting into your car or entering your house. Be sure to keep all work and hobby items far from the living area of your home. Also, be sure to wash your hobby or work clothes alone. Don’t mix them with the garments of everyone else in the household.

Storing Antiques
Objects like antique toys, furniture, jewelry, and lead-glazed pottery and lead crystal, can cause lead poisoning. Children put toys in their mouths without thinking, and food and beverage containers featuring lead may leak and poison food and drinks. These objects are old and may be handed down in families. While it makes sense that you would want to keep them, be sure to pack them away and label them to avoid any accidental lead ingestion.

In conclusion, these are just some of the common issues with household lead and how to deal with them. If you follow these tips, you should stay safe, even in an older home.