Question: I am moving to a pre-war apartment and I’m concerned about lead. What can I do to ensure my safety?
Answer: Prior to 1978, little was known about the potential hazards of lead-based paint. In the early 1970’s, research began to show that exposure to lead was a major health hazard. Peeling, chipping, chalking, or cracking lead-based paint can be especially dangerous. If inhaled or ingested, lead paint chips can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, difficulties during pregnancy, or high blood pressure. The element is even more dangerous to children than to adults because babies and young children often put their hands and other objects in their mouths. Lead paint can also cause learning disabilities and growth retardation in young children.
From 1978 on, when lead paint was banned from housing, legislation has been developed to protect consumers from lead-paint-related health problems. If you’re planing on buying or renting property that was constructed before 1978, you should know that the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 requires sellers, landlords and agents to warn home buyers and tenants of lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards in pre-1978 housing.
In 1996, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) and the Environmental Protection Agency published the lead-based paint disclosure regulations implementing the Act. Part of the information you are entitled to includes an EPS-approved information pamphlet on identifying and controlling lead-based paint hazards. The landlord or seller must disclose any records and reports on lead-based paint which are available, as well as an attachment to the contract or lease which includes a Lead Warning Statement and confirms that the seller or landlord has complied with all notification requirements.
There are also a number of things you can do yourself to temporarily reduce lead hazards in your home. Repairing damaged painted surfaces can reduce the chance of free-floating paint chips. Planting grass to cover soil with high lead levels is also helpful. Nevertheless, they are not permanent solution and should not be regarded as such.
Several government agencies have created special divisions devoted exclusively to lead pain issues. Lior Aldad of Aldad & Associates, a Manhattan real estate attorney (212.268.6999, www.closingprofessionals.com) recommends that you log on to HUD’s website (www.hud.gov/lea/leahome.html), where you can learn about ways to protect your home. The Environmental Protection Agency provides similar information on its website (www.epa.gov/lead), including a link to the National Lead Information Clearinghouse (1.800.424.LEAD). The Lead Listing, which is the National Lead Service Providers listing system (www.leadlisting.org,), provides contact listing for lead abatement contractors if you are interested in permanent lead removal.