By: Stephanie Ng 5/11/2016
Before lead paint was regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it was often used to paint many surfaces, such as houses. Commonly, the pigment variation found was either lead (II) chromate, lead (II,IV) oxide, or lead (II) carbonate, known as “chrome yellow”, “red lead”, and “white lead,” respectively. Previously, the lead was added to the paint in order to improve the different properties of the coating, and it may speed up the drying process, increase the durability, or improve moisture resistance. Since lead imparted many useful functions, it was used in many paints.
Unfortunately, it was discovered that lead had too many detrimental health effects, and high exposure to lead could cause serious disability or death, with even low exposure being a liability. In humans, the brain and nerves are particularly susceptible, and lead poisoning will interfere with the formation of blood cells, leading to anemia. In addition, it can also damage other organs, such as the kidneys, ones in the digestive system, or ones in the reproductive system. The other dangerous characteristic of lead is its accumulation in the body, and it can remain in the brain or other soft tissues for months.
Moving forward after 1978, paint containing any more than 0.06% lead was banned from being used in residential places. This ban came in light of the many cases of people being adversely harmed when living in houses that used lead-based paint. In 2010, the EPA stated that the new regulation “Renovation, Repair, and Painting” (RRP) had to be followed with regard to lead exposure. Renovators that were working in houses that had a higher probability of using lead-based paint (pre-1978) had to be certified. This certification stressed the importance of safe work practices to prevent lead contamination. Though the rule was important with regards to preserving health, there have been some complaints due to the increased cost burden that was placed on workers in these areas as a result.
Gradually, the market has also advanced to improve on paints and coatings made in the absence of lead as substitutes. Now, there are many alternatives on the market in different areas where lead paint had previously been used. By working together and combining national regulation and research from coatings companies, harmful health effects can be reduced.