Lead pipes and the effects of lead poisoning has been a leading topic in new stories for the past several years, and with good reason. Symptoms of lead exposure include headaches, trouble sleeping, fatigue, reduced libido, mood changes, loss of appetite, stomach pain, and weakness or twitching in muscles. Diseases caused by lead exposure include anemia, kidney damage, reproductive issues, brain and nervous system damage. What steps can you take as a property owner to asses if you suspect your home or commercial space has lead products?

Historical records can be used to predict lead-based materials. Architectural specifications for building and coating products can be used to document the presence of lead. Paints applied in homes prior to 1975 should be considered as suspect lead containing. Structural steel in manufacturing and commercial buildings, bridges, and other structures should always be considered as suspect lead-containing materials. However, these historical records cannot be used to rule out potential exposures. There were too many different products likely available at the time, and the actual construction material or application may have deviated from the specifications without accurate documentation.

Before beginning any renovation project, a lead inspection should be conducted by a trained and licensed professional. All materials involved in a demolition or renovation project should be screened for potential lead content. Areas of a building that may contain lead may be within pipes, old coatings or paints and varnishes, or similar materials.

An XRF (X-Ray Fluorescence) Analyzer is an instrument used to determine the presence and quantity of lead in paint. This instrument resembling a price scanner is held flush against the lead-suspected surface to be tested. During analysis, an x-ray from an enclosed radioactive source, Cobalt 57, is utilized to detect the presence of a heavy metal composition within the material. The radiation excites atoms in the paint. As the atoms return to a stable state, the paint emits characteristic x-rays, the x-ray fluorescence spectrum is detected. A microprocessor eliminates the effects of the substrate to determine the amount of lead on a surface. The XRF provides readings in milligrams of lead per square centimeter of surface area with a detection limit of 0.10 milligrams per square centimeter. Levels above 0.5 mg/cm2 should be considered the action level for lead precautions.

Sampling performed with an XRF is recorded and complies with OSHA’s 1926.62(d)(1)(iii) standard stating this method is a recognized method for determine painted surfaces with the highest concentration for lead. The sample is analyzed by atomic absorption, and the atomic emission spectroscopy. The results are provided as a percent of weight of the sample.

Instant lead testing quick-tests are available, but are nowhere near as accurate for screening for lead contamination in solder, paint, soil and dust. These tests are not recommended for final determination, but can be useful as indicators.

When conducted by Balestrieri Environmental and our laboratory partners, your project manager will email lab findings in a report to you once the results are ready, and advise on the next steps to take regarding your property.

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