Dangers of Lead in Paint Minimizing Your Exposer Risk

Dangers of lead in older paint, and minimizing your exposure


A  Guide on Re-Painting and Lead  Removal


Older painted surfaces & lead paint in your home advice.

Dangers of Lead in Paint. The UK decorative paint suppliers want to ensure that the public and professional painters and decorators, continue to be aware of the potential dangers of lead in painted surfaces. In their homes, commercial properties, and public buildings associated with exposure to old painted surfaces containing lead.

The adoption of the best practices, which protect decorators and others likely affected by exposure, to any disturbed old lead-painted surfaces, is a critical requirement in the process of removal and repainting activities.


Professional Painters and Decorators:

Should Follow The: Statutory Instrument 2002 No.2676 Health and Safety – The Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 (often referred to as CLAW), these lay down precautions, training and monitoring of workers and are available from http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2002/2676/pdfs/uksi_20022676_en.pdf


The Effects of Lead Exposer (Lead is very hazardous to all health.)


Inhaled in as dust, fume or vapour. It can be swallowed in the form of paint chips, dust or dirt containing lead, or in drinking water or food, especially if you have not washed your hands. If the amount of lead in your body gets too high, it can cause:

  • Headaches-Tiredness-Irritability-Constipation-Nausea-Stomach pains-Anaemia-Loss of weight
  • Continued uncontrolled exposure can cause high blood lead levels that can have severe health consequences, such as:
  • Kidney damage-Nerve and brain damage-Infertility

Note: These symptoms can also have causes other than lead exposure, so they do not necessarily mean that lead poisoning has occurred. 3 HS022 December 2014.


Very young children would be particularly vulnerable to these potential adverse health effects of elevated lead levels in the blood. Children absorb lead particles mostly by eating them or touching contaminated dust or soil and then putting their fingers into their mouths. An unborn child is at particular risk from lead exposure, especially in the early weeks before pregnancy known.

If you are a woman capable of having children, you should take special care to follow acceptable working practices and a high personal hygiene level. Unnecessary exposure of children to lead paints should be eliminated as a precautionary measure.

How do I Know if There is Lead on a Previously Painted surface?


Lead pigments were taken out of most paints in the 1960s, and the early 1980s completely removed lead pigments and driers. Many surfaces painted before the 1960s could contain significant lead; although this applies mainly to wood and metal surfaces.


Lead pigments, either as a white pigment (lead carbonate/lead sulphate) or sometimes as a colouring pigment (lead chromes) were widely used in decorative paints applied in houses and other buildings (schools, hospitals etc.). Although leaded paint has not been used for many decades-old lead-painted surfaces can still be found, and can represent a possible exposure source.

To be certain whether or not lead-containing paint is present on any particular surface, the paint needs to be tested by a specialist laboratory (a), a professional decorator (b) knowledgeable about the subject or a specialist company (c).


Lead test kits that give a simple lead are available from retailers and trade counters and directly from distributors (d). If the instructions for use are followed carefully, and the test paper shows, a positive response then lead is present. However, as the test is not necessarily 100% accurate, a negative reading should not be relied upon to show the absence of lead. If you think there could be lead present, then a quantitative test should be carried out – see c) below.

What Can Be Done?

Whilst lead is hazardous to health; it is important to realise that there is only a risk if the paint film is unsound or disturbed.


Though leaded paint may not be used for many years, lead-painted surfaces can still be found underneath existing paintwork in older buildings. The hazards for lead have been documented.


You may wish to check whether you are dealing with lead-based paints using a lead test kit; otherwise, you could assume that you are. Have you considered leaving the paintwork in situ if it is in good condition? This is the preferred option. You could paint over it after “keying” using wet abrasive paper. Lead paint really should only be removed if it is flaking away or if there is the real possibility of the painted surface being chewed or tampered with by children.


If you decide removal is the only option, make sure your contractors’ workers are adequately instructed and understand the hazards and the control measures required. They should wear RPE with an assigned protection factor of 20 (ffp3 disposable mask or half mask with a P3 filter), face fit tested. Also, they should wear disposable overalls and gloves and remove them before leaving the area.




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