Lead Paint Poisoning: What You Need To Know

Peeling Paint DoorThe Flint Water Crisis in Michigan has brought the dangers of lead poisoning to headlines.  While the events in Flint are an absolute tragedy, the hope is that with increased awareness, local governments will be more vigilant about protecting communities from lead poisoning.  In Philadelphia, children are also at risk for lead poisoning.  Homes built before 1978 have an increased risk for lead paint and, if ingested, can lead to lead paint poisoning in children a well as adults.  In a historic city like Philadelphia where homes easily average 100 years old, it important to understand the risks and how to prevent exposure.

The majority of lead paint exposure comes from rental properties.  In 2012, Philadelphia passed the Lead Paint Disclosure and Certification Law for landlords renting to families with children under 6 years old.  The law is intended to prevent children from being exposed to the potential health issues of lead paint and requires the following from the landlord prior to tenant move in:

  • Certify the property is lead safe or lead free
  • Provide tenant with a copy of lead safe or lead free certificate
  • Provide Department of Public Health with a copy of certificates, signed by tenants

What Are The Symptoms of Lead Poisoning in Children?
According to the City of Philadelphia Public Health Department: Stomach aches, irritability, tiredness, constipation, headache, sleep problems, poor appetite and hearing problems.

How Do Children Get Lead Poisoning?
When a child ingests by way of cracked or peeling paint. Can also be ingested by dust from peeling paint.  Children are at an increased risk for ingesting as they are more likely to touch and ingest dust from their fingers or by eating peeling paint.

What Are The Symptoms of Lead Poisoning in Adults?
Metallic taste, muscle/joint pain, memory problems, weight loss, wrist and ankle weakness.  Over time, more serious issues can develop like brain disorders, high blood pressure, anemia and more.

How Do Adults Get Lead Poisoning?
Adults are generally less effected by lead paint by being more diligent with washing hands and keeping hands and fingers away from the face.  However, certain occupations, constructions sites, hobbies and even vacuuming can stir up dust and become accidentally inhaled.

My Home Was Built Before 1978 – What Now?
If there is a good chance your home has lead based paint, don’t panic.  In most cases, it’s better to seal the lead paint than try to remove it completely.  Scraping, sanding and heating the paint will only expose it’s toxic aspects by circulating dust in the air.  Having a qualified professional seal the areas in your home that tend to break down quickly, like windows, doors, stairs, porches and fences are the best way to prevent exposure.   Ensure any inspector or risk assessor you hire is certified in Pennsylvania.  For a list of certified professionals, contact the PA Bureau of Labor and Industry at 717-772-3396.

I’m Concerned About My Children’s Health, Who Do I Call?
If your home does have lead paint, and your child is showing symptoms, don’t panic.  In general, treatment is as simple as hiring a professional to remove the source.  If you or your child have been exposed for a significant period of time, contact your doctor as additional treatment may be necessary.


For additional questions and concerns, head to the City of Philadelphia Lead and Healthy Homes Program website. There you can find more information on lead based paint and contacts for assessment and treatment.