If left untreated, how long does lead paint stay a hazard?

In the USA, lead paint was banned for most uses in 1978. There are still many areas where lead paint is doing significant damage to children. How long does it stay hazardous?

Pretty much forever. Metal in soil don’t really biodegrade (a lot of lead exposure is from contaminated dust and soil, as well as the classic “eating paint chips”) so the only way for it to go away “by itself” is through some kind of chemical reaction or the off-chance that it can weather away and disperse to somewhere else. I think sometimes chemicals are used in some abatement operations, things like phosphates that “bind” to or react with the lead to make it a less hazardous form (although these chemicals may have dangers of their own), and obviously weathering and decay of the paint or airborne particles or whatever usually just contributes to soil and dust contamination that can stay in place for practical purposes forever.

Lead has a half-life of 2x10^19 years. So, it will take a while.

Basicall, you have to strip it off or, I guess, paint over it. Otherwise it is a permanent hazard that gets worse since I imagine it gets more dusty as time goes no.

Lead pipes are another permanent hazard, although the pH of the water going through matters too.

That covers paint and pipes. ** troub** mentioned lead in soils, most of which came from the exaust particulates of cars using leaded gasoline.

Organic soil contaminants can sometimes be consumed by soil bacteria. The trouble with lead is that it’s an element, and not a very reactive one. On the up side, most soils, even near highly trafficked highways, don’t have that much contamination. And what contamination is there only spreads if there’s no vegetation cover or if the area is plowed.

For most areas, paint and pipes are going to be the most likely danger.

[Also, I love “as time goes no”.]

I could be wrong, but I think it gets more hazardous with age. The paint will flake off and become powdery. Thus more easily ingested by the kiddies.

Interestingly, although some countries like France and Austria-Hungary banned it before the First World War, and the League of Nations just after — and Germany started protecting women and children from working near it in 1884 — America got around to it in the 1970s as said, thanks to Nixon’s environmental push, and Britain in 1992. One has to wonder if the populations of the later-banning countries have palpable — and residual — effects from lead ( and not only in paint of course ).

It stays a hazard as long as it’s extant.

My own personal experience with lead poisoning is that it’s a bigger danger to dogs than it is for children. With one exception, every case of lead poisoning I’ve ever been involved in treating was indeed in a dog! :eek: Apparently dogs find lead paint very tasty; children generally do not eat paint chips unless they’re suffering from pica, which is often a sign of a nutritional deficiency.

See the “Elections” Forum.

In the UK "In 1963 a voluntary agreement was made between the then Paintmakers’ Association, now the British Coatings Federation, and the U.K. Government that resulted in labeling of paint that contained more than 1% of lead in dry film, with a warning that it should not be applied to surfaces accessible to children"

I expect that something similar happened in the US.

Lead in petrol was probably much more significant and since it was banned in most places around the world, there have been significant benefits; notably in criminal behaviour.

yes indeed, it is advisable to have lead paint stripped when the paint is flaking.
If its under a layer ( or 10) of good modern paint, it can just stay there…

A study of lead in soil around Sydney identified that the lead in soil was only high near the CBD main roads, where the number of vehicles each day was very high and the lead was being deposited whatever way the wind blew… (because it could come from that highway there, or that one there, or that one… the more surrounded an area was, the more lead…) So its pretty clear that its lead acetate for octane rating’s effect that caused lead polution, except near lead smelters…

I think you mean tetra-ethyl lead

…very carefully.

A study of lead in soil around Sydney identified that the lead in soil was only high near the CBD main roads, where the number of vehicles each day was very high and the lead was being deposited whatever way the wind blew… (because it could come from that highway there, or that one there, or that one… the more surrounded an area was, the more lead…) So its pretty clear that its lead acetate for octane rating’s effect that caused lead polution, except near lead smelters…
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Lead contamination of soil near old buildings is an issue too, particularly if you have a garden or a kid who likes to eat dirt.

Lots of data on environmental lead and lead poisoning here.

A woman I know had a very ill parrot that was diagnosed with lead toxicity. Her husband was reloading ammunition and was careless with his lead.

The bird was treated and survived, but treatment involved traveling to New York’s Animal Medical Center and considerable expense.

But it is tasty, even for humans. Slightly sweet in some forms. It was a known hazard for electricians in Aus: they’d get into the habit of chewing on bits of electrical insulation, and wind up in hosptal.

Lead is a wonderful elemnt of electrical insulation (as it is for paint). It was used for coloring, but it also helped prevent rodent attack and microbioligal attack, and reduced flamibility. Dunno if it has been banned for that use in all countries.

The flamability issue is important for plastic appliances too: there was at least one death here from electrical fire, and the police investigations into possible criminal liability wonderfully concentrated the minds of local manufacturers on the importance of using additives to reduce flamibility. .Still turns up from time to time.

It also sometimes turns up in plastic childrens toys as a color, and although that is illegal in Aus, we still get commercial recalls from time to time, so I amagine that there are more that are missed.