lead-based paint poisoning

Home Lead Hazards

it's not curable but it is preventable

Lead Hazards in the Home

Lead can be found in paint, dust, soil, water pipes, food, workplaces, and hobby materials. But of all the possible sources, lead from chipped and peeling lead-based paint in, on, and around our homes is the greatest source of lead poisoning.

Paint applied before 1978 very likely contained now-banned lead additives. Those older painted surfaces today that are chipping or peeling are particularly hazardous. Windows, doorframes, steps, porches and other friction areas where chipped paint is likely to be found are also of great concern. Children are at higher risk both because they are on the ground and may get dust on their hands and put their hands in their mouth and because of the nature of their still-developing bodies.

You should know that there are federal requirements related to pre-1978 homes and there are steps one can take to live lead-safe, even in a home with lead. Please read on for further information and resources.

Video: ‘Don't Do It Yourself!

Lead-Related Articles:

Take it from the experts, both federal law and common sense mean many repairs and renovations of pre-1978 homes are not D.I.Y. jobs!

Click here for video!








Do You Have Lead Questions?

Call the Lead Line (a free service) at 503/988-4000!

If you have fair housing questions call 800/424-3247 Ext. 2.

What Landlords Don't Know About Lead

FHCO surveyed over 500 landlords to assess lead awareness. Seventy-three percent indicated they owned or managed pre-1978 properties (over 9700 individual units, in fact) and almost all (91%) knew that lead was highly dangerous, especially for young children. However, far fewer knew other important information about lead in housing:

  • 41% are still not aware that HUD / EPA have required disclosure in all units built prior to 1978 (including use of a specific brochure on the subject) prior to many repairs or renovations made to pre-78 properties since 2008.
  • 25% still don’t know that HUD and EPA have also required lead disclosure (with use of a different brochure) prior to contract since 1996.
  • 50% still didn't know HUD / EPA has required that many repairs or renovations be done by a certified lead-safe contractor since 2010.
  • 37% still don’t know it has been illegal under the federal Fair Housing Act to deny housing to an applicant simply because there are children in the household (even in pre-1978 properties) since 1988.

Read the rest of the article here (PDF) "LEAD: What Landlords Don't Know"

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Legal Requirements:

How Does this Relate to Fair Housing:

Federal, state and local fair housing laws make it illegal to discriminate in the rental, sale, , appraisal or financing, insuring, building and construction or the land use regulations, zoning and advertising of housing.

At least two relevant protected classes under fair housing laws come into play: familial status and disability.

Familal Status as a Protected Class

Although lead poisoning is especially dangerous for kids, the fear of poisoning or liability does not give housing providers the right to deny or discourage families with children away from pre-1978 using. Familial status is a protected class under federal fair housing law and doing anything to deny or discourage otherwise qualified families is illegal. There are, in fact, fair housing cases on the books related to just this topic and those housing providers who attempted to steer families away from older housing stock fearing harm or liability around lead-based paint have lost.

Case Law:
HUD's 1997 Memo "Requirements Concerning Lead-Based Paint and the Fair Housing Act"

HUD Announces Settlements Against Two San Antonio Landlords

Disability as a Protected Class

In at least one case, a New York household filed a complaint with HUD after being denied housing because one of the family members had been previously poisoned by lead resulting in a disability. You can read about this case at www.FHCO.org/pdfs/lead_disab_article.pdf.

Lead Disclosure Requirements:

For a conscise flyer on "Lead Requirements for Housing Providers" visit www.FHCO.org/pdfs/lead_reqs_for_hs_provs.pdf

For an updated article on a 2011 mandatory revision of the Renovate Right Brochure visit www.FHCO.org/pdfs/lead_renovate_brochure_revised2011.pdf


If you have lead questions call the LeadLine at 503/988-4000. If you have fair housing questions contact us at information@FHCO.org or 800/424-3247 Ext. 2.

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When is lead a risk?

  • Have you remodeled or are you planning an improvement project? Was your property painted before 1978? Paint used before 1978 that is chipping or peeling on walls or friction spots such as windows may be a lead hazard.
  • Pregnant women and children under six years old are most at risk from harmful lead poisoning.
  • Do you have lead solder? Lead solder may have been used in plumbing installed between 1970 and 1985.
  • Do you have areas of bare soil around your property? Lead paint chips or lead dust may have gotten into the soil.

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What can I do to make my property lead safe?

Call the LeadLine at 503-988-4000 and talk to a certified lead risk assessor about the following free services (free within, at least, the Bull Run Water District):

  • Free Information for repair and remodeling - Remodeling and improvement projects can generate harmful lead dust. The LeadLine provides do-it-yourselfers with suggestions and printed brochures on lead-safe work practices.
  • Free Lead Poisoning Prevention Workshops – The Community Energy Project offers workshops on how to keep your family lead safe to qualified participants. Workshop participants receive lead poisoning prevention kits with cleaning supplies, lead check test swabs and access to their HEPA vacuum lending program.
  • Free Tap Water Testing – Exposure to lead through drinking water is possible if materials in a building’s plumbing contain lead. Many water providers offer free lead in water testing for their customers.
  • Free Childhood Blood Lead screening – The only way to know if your have lead poisoning is to have their blood tested.

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Six Tips to Protect Children from Lead Poisoning

  • Have their blood lead tested!
  • Use only fresh, cold water for drinking, cooking, and making baby formula. Run the water from the coldwater tap until the water feels noticeably colder (about 30 seconds to 2 minutes). This flushes standing water out of pipes, replacing it with fresh water.
  • Wash hands, pacifiers, toys, and stuffed animals frequently.
  • Have children play on grass instead of bare dirt. Take off shoes when entering the house to avoid tracking in soil that may contain lead.
  • Meals high in iron, vitamin C, and calcium help prevent young bodies from absorbing lead.
  • Get your tap water tested for lead.

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Did You Know that Trendy Salvaged Building Materials May Pose a Risk?

People should think twice and ask about lead paint when they buy old building components. Anyone that works with older building components or antique furniture, even with the original paint is not visible, should be aware that lead can cause serious and incurable physiological damage. Although the sale of lead-based paint was banned in 1978, it remains in about 24 million homes according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to Rebecca Morley, executive director of the National Center for Healthy Housing, “We estimate that each year, renovation and painting work exposes 1.1 million children to the risk of lead poisoning.

In addition to lead-based paint on the walls or salvaged pieces brought into the home, it has been determined that about 75% of pre-1978 bathtubs have lead in their glaze and that about 40% of these tubs will have measurable levels of lead dust when dust samples are collected from the surface of the glaze. Older claw foot tubs, like well-appointed front doors, are another popular retro salvage yard item.

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What About Lead in Water?

While the greatest risk for lead poisoning comes from lead-based paint, exposure to lead through drinking water is possible if materials in a building’s plumbing contain lead. The level of lead in water can increase when water stands in contact with lead-based solder and brass faucets containing lead.

In the Portland area, houses and buildings built between 1970-1985 are most likely to have lead solder in the plumbing. Many water providers offer free lead in water testing for their customers. Call the LeadLine at 503-988-4000 to see if you are eligible for a free water test.

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"Thank You"

The FHCO would like to thank our partners and members for their support.
Their contributions and grants have helped to make the resources on this site possible.
Please join them in supporting our efforts!


If you have a fair housing question, or to report a fair housing complaint, please call 503/223-8197 Ext. 2 or 800/424-3247 Ext. 2 (TTY and translation available). Alternatively, you may call HUD at 800/877-0246.

Office Location:

1221 SW Yamhill Avenue #305, Portland, Oregon 97205
information@FHCO.org .| .503/223-8197 .| .Hotline 800/424-3247 Ext. 2

The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and the publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.

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