Loyola University Chicago

Healthy Homes & Healthy Communities

Lead dangers in the home

Lead dangers in the home

Lead-based paint is the most dangerous source of lead in the home. While it was banned in housing in 1978, lead paint can be still found in and around homes – especially those that have not been well maintained or were poorly renovated. Lead can also be found in varnish, stain, or even some wallpaper preparations.

When painted surfaces are damaged, the lead in the paint can turn to dust. Painted surfaces get damaged when they are bumped or rubbed often, such as on door frames or window sills, and when paint chips, cracks, or peels. Lead dust can come from opening and closing windows, through normal wear and tear, and through repairing areas with lead-based paint without using Lead-Safe Work Practices.

Lead dust is most harmful to children and pregnant women. Dust that contains lead looks just like any other dust. It can be found in and around windows, on floors, on furniture or on other objects. Lead dust also settles on floors and gets on children's hands and toys. Young children can swallow lead dust when they put their hands or toys into their mouths. Children can also become lead poisoned by eating, chewing, or sucking on things covered with lead-based paint, such as window sills, railings, or other painted surfaces, including some children’s products.

Probability of a house containing lead. Illinois has some of the oldest houses in the United States. Older homes built before 1978 are much more likely to have lead-based paint problems.