Lead in paint
Lead is a highly toxic metal, but before the early 1960s white lead (lead carbonate/lead sulphate) was the principal white pigment in primers and topcoats applied to wooden surface inside and outside homes and other buildings. Lead-based paints were widely used on doors, architraves, window frames and sills, stairs and railings, skirting boards, weatherboards, door frames and barge boards.
Exposure to lead in paint can occur as a result of inhaling or swallowing paint chips, dust or dirt containing lead. Elevated blood lead levels are associated with a range of adverse health effects including fatigue, stomach ache, headache, anaemia, irritability, depression, decreased libido and forgetfulness with high levels of exposure leading to loss of coordination, convulsions, paralysis, coma and death. Children are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning. Adverse effects on the intellectual and behavioural development of children have been reported at relatively low levels of exposure, sometimes as a result of exposure to leaded paint in house dust.
In the UK, regulations now prohibit the use of lead paint in domestic properties, but leaded paint may still be present in houses built before the 1970s. This is a particular hazard for those engaged in renovating older properties. Before any work is carried out on old painted surface, the lead content should be established.