Lead paint has been banned in the states since 1978, but if you’re like me, you still wonder about the paint debris you inhale in your home, in your office, in general. You wonder if there’s actually some of the old toxic stuff lurking about beneath the newer coats, and if you’ve already incurred serious brain damage and are on your way to completely obliterating what little remains of your attention span. If you’re a parent, you probably wonder all these things with an escalated level of urgency, because you know that children are hugely vulnerable to lead poisoning and the permanent damage it does.
But if you’re like most Americans, you don’t do anything about these musings, because really, where would you even begin? What would you do? Who would you call?
Good news. Lead testing is on the up and up. RTI International and the EPA have together come up with a new method for lead-testing. Running a single sample with this method takes only ten minutes, and costs a trifling six dollars. The new testing method utilizes a device that measures the turbidity of paint when light is shone through the sample. RTI’s William Studabaker calls it the “turbidimetric method.” It was developed partly as a response to a new EPA Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Program rule that’s stricter with pre-1978 buildings about renovations and repairs. And preliminary tests suggest that the new turbidimetric method is just as effective as the older (slower, more expensive) microwave extraction method.
Lead poisoning is no joke. Most homes built before 1978 were finished with lead-heavy paints; a typical lead-exposure level for someone who grew up in a house like that translates to about a seven-point drop off in IQ. A seven-point decrease that can’t be reversed, actually. Whereas some toxins are easily banished from the body by lifestyle changes (switching to organic produce and antibiotic-free meat/dairy, for example), lead is one that sticks around for decades, building up in the organs and even bones. Better keep it out in the first place.