Most Illinois homes built before 1978 were painted with lead-based paint. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Illinois has more than 4.8 million housing units.

  • 16.3 percent or 798,295 were built between 1970 to 1979
  • 14.6 percent or 715,007 were built between 1960 to 1969
  • 24.4 percent or 1,190,514 were built between 1940 to 1959
  • 22.6 percent or 1,103,376 were built in 1939 or earlier

Where Lead is Found

Different surfaces in a home pose varying lead-paint risks. Friction from opening and closing windows and doors can turn hazardous exterior paint into lead dust, which can be ingested by people inside. If the paint is intact, large interior surfaces, like walls and ceilings, are far less likely to pose a danger.

Renovating or refinishing lead paint surfaces creates dust, fumes, and debris that can cause lead poisoning. Lead poisoning is a condition caused most often by eating lead paint chips or inhaling or eating leaded dust. Children ages 6 months through 6 years are at greatest risk for lead poisoning in part because young children put everything into their mouths. Lead is especially harmful to infants and toddlers because their bodies absorb lead more easily than adult bodies do. Lead poisoning can slow a child’s development and cause learning and behavior problems. Even small amounts of lead can seriously harm a young child, causing damage to the brain and nervous system. Lead also can harm pregnant women and their unborn children. If you plan to renovate your home, have your home inspected for lead paint.

Be Alert to the Dangers of Lead Paint Removal

Lead can be a hazard in older homes if the work is not done properly.

  • Do not remain at home during the renovation. It is especially important that young children and pregnant women not remain in areas where work is underway. When work is complete, do not re-enter the area until testing indicates it has been thoroughly cleaned.
  • Federal regulations require that contractors provide a copy of a lead hazard information pamphlet to owners/residents and “Child Occupied Facilities” prior to starting work in pre-1978 housing. Additionally, the owner and occupant must sign a statement that the renovator distributed the pamphlet. If you hire contractors, make sure they understand the notification requirements and are familiar with the causes of lead poisoning and how to prevent lead exposure

Lead Abatement Renovation Safety Guidelines

This section refers to what RRP-certified contractors do (in addition to using specialized equipment and removal plans).

  • The safest time to renovate or remodel is when the house is unoccupied.
  • Protect all food appliances, cooking and eating utensils, furniture, bedding, toys, and clothing from lead dust. Remove these items from the work area or cover or bag them in plastic and seal them tightly.
  • Close off work areas by taping plastic sheeting over all doors, windows, and the floor.
  • Put plastic sheeting down in the work area to collect dust and other debris.
  • Do not eat or smoke in the work area to avoid getting dust from your hands or clothing in your mouth. Wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Place a damp floor mat outside the work area to collect dust from the bottom of the shoes
  • Even removing wallpaper or loose plaster can create lead dust. To clean up, use a clean damp cloth or mop dampened with a cleaning product. Do not vacuum dust and debris as vacuuming may push lead dust into the air, spreading it to other parts of the house.
  • Wash work clothes and clean-up rags separately from other laundry.

Exterior Lead Abatement Guidelines

  • When removing exterior paint, seal windows and vents so dust cannot get inside the house.
  • Wipe damp shoes on a floor mat. Remove shoes before entering the house.
  • Do not walk around clean areas of the house in work clothes.
  • To remove paint chips and dust from around the outside of the house, hose off porches, sidewalks, driveways, and the sides of buildings. Scrub with a stiff brush or broom and soapy water; then rinse as clean as possible. Pick up and dispose of paint chips

Lead Poisoning Concerns

Lead poisoning is a serious issue that can have major impacts on health, especially in children. If you are working on a project that involves people that may be concerned about lead poisoning, it needs to be taken seriously.

Have occupants, particularly children 6 months through 6 years of age, tested for lead poisoning by a physician or other health care provider if they have occupied an older home or have been occupying an older home during a renovation.

Even children who appear healthy can have dangerous levels of lead in their bodies. A child may experience stomachaches or headaches or exhibit decreased appetite, hyperactivity, sleep problems, or irritability. The only way to detect lead poisoning early is to bring your child to your local clinic, public health clinic, or physician to have a simple blood lead level (BLL) test.

Illinois Environmental Contractors Association Resources

For more information on finding a local contractor to assist with the lead abatement process, check the resources below:

Follow Us