How to test your home for lead

How to test your home for lead

How can you tell if lead is lurking in your home? It's a good bet that it's present if your home was built before 1978, "unless your house has been totally stripped of previous paint," Mike Usher, of Architectural Restoration Inc. in Indianapolis, says.

However, it's a common misconception that only older homes are in danger of lead contamination. "Lead is in the air — particularly around industrial areas. Lead can be brought in simply by walking it in on the bottom of your shoes," David Hronowski of Accutest Lead Inspection in Baltimore says.

Most local hardware stores supply lead test kits. These kits will include swabs used to gather dust around your home for testing.

To properly use these kits, Usher says it's important to test several different areas. You're going to want to test the walls, the trim and each and every window to make sure that there is or is not lead."

Some test swabs are then sent to a lab for testing while others change color and let you know of lead contamination instantly. These lead test kits range from $5 to $25. However, more elaborate tests exist.

"XRF testing acts like an X-ray machine that finds the lead. You can hold it up to any kind of surface and tell if there's lead present," says Hronowski. "It can cost a little bit of money, but if you're serious about making sure, it can be worth it."

XRF testing is performed by lead abatement companies. Depending on the size of your home, Hronowski says that having someone XRF test your home can range from $300 to $1,000. You can search for lead abatement companies in the Lead Testing & Removal category on Angie's List. 

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