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Paint and Dust

Exterior wood siding with white chipping paint
Department of Health and Human Services

Paint and Dust

Lead in Paint

Homes built before 1978 are more likely to have lead-based paint. Lead was often added to paint used in homes built before 1978. In 1978, the federal government banned the use of lead-based paint in homes. The older the home, the more likely it is to have lead-based paint

Any of the following paints and coverings may contain lead if they were made before 1978:

  • Paint
  • Varnish
  • Enamel
  • Lacquer
  • Glaze
  • Stain
  • Primer
  • Coating

Lead-based paint is a problem when it is peeling, cracking, or chipping. Lead-based paint is also a problem when it is painted on something that moves or rubs against something else creating lead-based paint dust. This risk is greatest with windows and doors that have been painted with lead-based paint.

If you live in a home built before 1978, you may want to get your home tested for lead. You can hire a certified lead professional to do this test.

Lead in Dust

Lead dust is created when:

  • Lead-based paint is scraped, dry sanded, heated or burned.
  • Windows and doors that have been painted with lead-based paint rub together.
  • Lead-contaminated soil is brought indoors.
  • Lead from a job or hobby is brought home on clothes or hands.
  • Lead is used at home for hobbies.

How am I exposed to lead in paint and in dust?

Exposure to lead from paint chips and dust can happen in many ways. Lead in paint and dust can get into your body when you breathe or swallow lead dust or lead-based paint chips. Breathing or swallowing lead can accidentally happen by:

  • Breathing in lead dust
  • Accidentally getting lead dust in your mouth
  • Not washing your hands before eating
  • Eating lead-based paint chips

Lead dust and lead-based paint chips settle on surfaces and objects people touch. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air when vacuuming or sweeping, people or pets walk through it, or when air is blowing in the home for any reason, including wind from open windows or fans. 

Lead dust is the most common way children come into contact with lead because children often put their hands in their mouths. Children also sometimes chew on toys and other household objects and furniture that may contain lead. 

How can I protect myself from lead in paint and in dust?

If you live in a home built before 1978:

  • Wash toys and flat surfaces – like windowsills and tables – using soapy water.
  • You can follow these safe lead cleaning tips for lead paint chips and dust.
  • Take your shoes off before going into your home to avoid tracking lead-containing soil and dust from outside.
  • Vacuum with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filtered vacuum.
  • Eat healthy foods with calcium, iron, and vitamin C to limit the amount of lead getting into your body.
  • Always wash your hands before eating to keep from accidentally swallowing lead dust.
  • Grow fruits and vegetables in raised beds.
  • Keep paint in good repair; fix chipping or cracked paint right away, and consider hiring a certified lead professional to test your home and help with home repairs and renovation in houses built before 1978.