Lead & Painted Surfaces

Guide on repainting and removal


DIY and professional painters and decorators





Lead & painted surfaces. UK decorative paint suppliers want to ensure that the public and professional painters and decorators, continue to be aware of the potential risks in their homes, commercial properties, and public buildings that are associated with exposure to old painted surfaces that may contain 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 key requirement in the process of removal and repainting activities.

Professional painters and decorators should follow 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



Lead is hazardous to health.

It can be breathed 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 in food, especially if you have not washed your hands.

Lead contained in old lead painted surfaces cannot be absorbed through the skin.

If the amount of lead in your body gets too high it can cause:






Stomach pains


Loss of weight

Continued uncontrolled exposure can cause high blood lead levels that can have very serious health consequences, such as:

Kidney damage

Nerve and brain damage


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 levels of lead in the blood. Children absorb lead mostly by eating it 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 good working practices and a high level of personal hygiene. Similarly, unnecessary exposure of children to lead should be eliminated as a precautionary measure.

If you think that your health or the health of any member of your family may have been affected by lead you should contact your local doctor immediately or call: England and Wales – NHS Direct 0845 4647 Scotland – NHS Scotland 08454 242424



Lead pigments were taken out of most paints in the 1960s and lead pigments and driers were completely removed by the early 1980s. 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 source of exposure.

To be absolutely 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 indication of the presence of lead, are available from some 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 and if you think there could be lead present then a quantitative test should be carried out – see c) below.

  1. a) Details of analytical laboratories which carry out lead testing are available from the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) telephone 0208 917 8555 website ukas.org
  2. b) Contact the following for further information: Painting and Decorating Association, 32 Cotton Road, Nuneaton CV11 5TW telephone 0247 635 3776, e-mail info@paintingdecoratingassociation.co.uk website paintingdecoratingassociation.co.uk Scottish Decorators Federation, Castlecraig Business Park, Stirling FK7 7SH

4 HS022 December 2014

Telephone 01786 448838, e-mail info@scottishdecorators.co.uk website www.scottishdecorators.co.uk The Guild of Master Craftsmen, 166 High Street, Lewes BN7 1XU, telephone 01273 478449, website www.guildmc.com

  1. c) The following specialist companies can conduct checks for lead paint (this also includes companies who can test for lead dust and lead contamination? Lead Paint Safety Association (LIPSA), telephone 0844 544 6187, e-mail info@lipsa.org.uk website lipsa.org.uk

Lead Test Home Analysis Service, telephone 0131 669 8770, (0790 194 1954), e-mail contact@leadtest.co.uk, website www.leadcheck.co.uk

Envirohive, telephone 01276 501439, website http://www.envirohive.co.uk/leadpaint.html Paint samples can be sent to the following for rapid assessment:

BLC (British Leather Technology Centre), telephone 01604 679999, website http://www.blcleathertech.com/testing-services/paint-lead-testing.htm

CPA Laboratories, telephone 01603 624555, website http://www.cpalaboratories.com/our-services/lead-testing-in-paint.aspx

LPD Lab Services, telephone 01254 676074, website http://www.lpdlabservices.co.uk/consultancy/health_and_safety_consultancy/lead_(pb)_in_paint_analysis.php

PMI Calibrations Ltd, telephone 01386 793791, e-mail info@pmical.co.uk website www.pimical.co.uk

  1. d) Available from B&Q stores, the location of stores can be found at diy.com Lead test kits should be available at store counters. (Nitromors Lead Paint Test Kit; product code 5010119241107)

Lead Paint Safety Association,

www.lipsa.org.uk Heritage Testing Limited, telephone 01273 891785, email enquiries@heritagetesting.co.uk, website http://www.heritagetesting.co.uk Lead Test Home Analysis Service, www.leadtest.co.uk

3M Lead Check Swabs order online from www.leadcheck.com (USA site)

Please note links to third parties do not imply or confer endorsement by the BCF.



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.