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Buying a Home? Learn the Importance of a Lead-Based Paint Risk Assessment with Doug Dalsing of Testudo

By Doug Dalsing

Say you're the owner of the New York Yankees--you'd never sign a potential star to a contract before making sure that player had a physical exam, right? Or say you're the CEO of Google--you'd never make an acquisition of a tech startup before first making sure the new company's management was topnotch, right?

The point is that before anyone makes a big purchase, we want to try to have done as much homework as possible. Otherwise, we could be unwittingly investing in tomorrow's biggest bust--whether a baseball slugger who goes south or a tech startup that goes belly up. So the same goes for buying a home. Every real estate transaction involves a standard home inspection; however, the most conscientious homebuyers will also have conducted a lead-based paint risk assessment, as well. This is because the most conscientious homeowners realize the dangers of lead poisoning: brain damage, central nervous system damage, ADHD, increased crime, and many other irreversible effects

Lead-based paint had widespread use in American housing from about the early 20th century up until about 1950. About that time its use began to decline, until 1978 when lead was finally banned for use in residential paint by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In today's housing stock, lead could potentially be located in any pre-78 home on any painted component, but it is most commonly found on windows sashes, window wells, doors, baseboards, exterior siding, soffit and fascia. A lead-based paint risk assessment is going to find this lead. A lead-based paint risk assessment involves 1) Non-destructive paint sampling to determine whether specific components in a given room are coated with lead-based paint, and 2) Collection of dust-wipe samples to determine whether nearby lead-based paint is breaking down and leaving behind invisible lead dust. The cost of an assessment varies by home and is dictated by a number of factors, including home size, condition and special requests.

After the risk assessment is completed the dust wipe samples are sent in for lab analysis, and within a few days homeowners should have results. All this data is organized, analyzed and placed into a report by the risk assessor; also included is a separate report detailing renovation work that could fix any lead-based paint hazards that were found.

And that's the true aim of a lead-based paint risk assessment--to identify lead hazards in a home and determine ways to fix them. So what is a lead hazard? A lead hazard is any housing component that could cause exposure to lead, which could result in lead poisoning. When lead-based paint was popular, it was an up-sell. Lead--a pliable heavy metal--increased the durability of paint, so it was popular to apply it to double-hung windows, doors and exteriors. Trouble is, windows and doors get open and shut a lot, and the resulting friction and impact breaks down the paint and releases lead dust. Millions of homes throughout the U.S. have this problem.

Some other facts about a lead-based paint risk assessment: Depending on the size of the home, the inspection takes a few hours to complete, and full results won't be known until the lab analysis is completed. By federal law, results of a lead test are required to be disclosed to potential future buyers.

The full report from your risk assessor will detail where the lead hazards are and how to fix them. Fixing lead hazards generally comes down to homeowner funds and scheduling. In no way is a homeowner compelled to fix a lead hazard if one is found in the home. Temporary lead hazard fixes can include stabilizing the paint or simply painting over; these fixes could last only a few years and should be continuously monitored to ensure safety. Permanent fixes of lead hazards include replacing components, enclosing components with an impermeable, dust-tight surface, (like drywall, aluminum coil or vinyl), removing components, or encapsulating components. Whether making temporary or permanent fixes of lead hazards, a remodeling contractor must be certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the state. Depending on the scope of the work, a certified remodeling contractor or certified abatement contractor may be used

Testudo was founded in 2010. Our mission is to help protect people from the environmental hazards within their home, and we have helped hundreds of Wisconsin residents detect and fix lead hazards. Contact us today for peace of mind about the lead hazards in your home. Doug Dalsing is a principal and lead-based paint risk assessor at Madison, Wis.-based Testudo LLC TestudoOnline.com. He can be reached at doug@TestudoOnline.com or (608) 205-8025.

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About The Author

Doug Dalsing is the vice president of Testudo LLC and is a trained lead paint risk...

Phone: (608) 205-8025

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