Lead paint: what are the dangers?

We’re buying a house that was build in 1959. We have little (2 & 3 y.o.) kids. Should I be worried about lead-based paint? My understanding is that the only danger is if you ingest it. Is that right? Are there advice sites I should know about?

AFAIK - As long as the paint stays adhered to the surface, no problem. The problem comes from ingesting paint chips orally (which I have never understood why kids would want to eat them) or through inhalation of suspended particles due to scraping, grinding, etc.

Latex interior paints were being introduced to the market in the 50’s. It is quite possible the wall paints and particularly the enamel on woodwork would contain some lead pigment. Since then I would expect the house has been redecorated several times, most likely with latex based paints/enamels.
There should be NO hazard of airborne lead in any form. The hazard would be from inquistitve/destructive behavior stripping or chipping paint off the walls or woodwork and ingesting it. Thus it becomes a matter of parental supervision.
The ‘zero tolerance’ advocates will scream like chicken little that any lead is too much lead.
Let common sense prevail.
Google, Dogpile, AskJeeves, etc. will provide sites re “Lead base paints”

This is true. However, the common sense I developed over years of supervising small children tells me that they do indeed get into things you’d never thought possible and that it’s impossible to watch them every minute, especially if the danger is on their own windowsill.

It’s my understanding that kids eat lead-based paint because it is sweet: this EPA site seems to concur and has some good information about lead toxicity.

According to the EPA, if the dwelling was constructed prior to 1978, it is considered to be suspect regarding lead-based paint.Here is another page from the link posted by Manda JO.

You may consider ordinary activities to be innocent enough, yet if window frames were finished with lead paint, simple opening and closing affords enough abrasion to release lead dust.

Little kids hang out on the floor, and every other time you look at a little one, they have their hand in their pie hole.

To springears-the levels of toxicity are quite low: the CDC defines 10µg/dL as the ‘level of concern’.

I’m a Dad, a contractor, and was formerly certified as a lead inspector tech, and my outlook is to do everything I can to keep it away from your kids and mine.

It definately tastes sweet. When you’re trying to get rid of it, even with a mask you can taste the lead paint dust in the air. It’s not something I worried about much when we were stripping the woodwork in a friend’s house, but then I’m a full grown adult - if I had growing children, obviously I’d be a little more concerned. The woodwork in question was peeling in big kiddie-sized chips - I definately see how a child would sit there and peel it off (interactive fun!) and then pop it in the mouth (look, wall candy!). If it’s not coming off, I’ve heard you’re probably better off leaving it there, as removal will get the dust everywhere anyway, but if I had kids I’d remove it.

When I was a wee lad, about 1969 or so, I remember public service announcments on TV in the US, warning kids not to eat the paint off of walls and they showed young children peeling paint chips off the wall.

I couldn’t figure out why I would have wanted to do this.

I am restoring an old house and in the process I have scraped off a lot of old lead-base paint. I always wear a mask of some sort when I’m doing that, but naturally I worry about lead ingestion. During a physical a while back I had my lead levels tested, and they were well within the normal range. I don’t think it’s easy to get dangreous levels of lead in your system by inhaling the dust.

The idea of eating paint chips is a bit of a misconception. Lead paint, especially in sunny areas, breaks down and gets a powdery coat on the top layer of paint.

You may not be able to even see the powder, but if you rub a finger along the windowsill, you an get significant lead concentrations on your fingertips, and of course putting a finger in your mouth, you’re ingesting lead.

Not a big deal if it’s a one time thing, but if you’re ingesting a small amount of lead regularly, their can definitely be brain impairement.

At work we take lo-tech lead wipe samples all the time with sterile water on a sterile gauze pad. Even a “clean” painted surface can have surprisingly high lead concentrations.

I meant “there”.

Hate when I do that!