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What Parents Need to Know About Lead-based Paint

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Our Old City is Painted in Lead-based Paints

Beautiful as our City is, the lead-based paint is a danger to all children under 7 years of age. And lead dust isn’t so good for the rest of us, either.

Children under 7 are susceptible to eating lead dust.- “But my House is CLEAN!” You can’t see the lead dust. Let me explain: When an old, painted door or window frame is opened or closed, parts of the painted wood rubs together. This is called a “friction point”. This friction point creates dust that falls on the floor or window sill. A child crawls on the floor and lickes their hands. Then they do it again because lead is sweet. If the child does that often enough, then a problem is created.

Lead causes mental retardation in children under 7. Often this is a permanent condition. 

Let’s not risk it!! It’s very simple to clean up the microscopic dust on the floor and window sills with a quick damp wipe with a paper towel. More Info Here.

The Santa Clara Lawsuit Requiring Lead Paint Manufacturers to Clean it Up - Well, sort of

UPDATE: 2024. The Judge, unfortunately, listened to the paint manufacturers’ recommendations on lead abatement, not the industry standards or the CDPH lead paint standards. So, the money went to a program named “Fix Lead SF”. As far as we can tell, the money is now gone. The restrictions the Judge placed on the use of the money means that many children are still exposed to lead based paint.


This lawsuit – County of Santa Clara, et al. v. Atlantic Richfield Company, et al.,  – went on for 20+ long years.

Finally, a $1.15B verdict was awarded to the nine Bay Area Counties to clean up the toxic lead-based paint. This amount was reduced to $305M. And uninformed restrictions were placed on that money. It is unfortunate the Judge in the case chose not to consult with the Califonria Department of Health on the lead standards for children.

Cleaning up lead-based paint dust to protect health is complicated. The outside of the building is usually covered with lead-based paint. Sometimes that paint has chipped off the walls contaminating the dirt next to the building. Both the exterior walls, trim, porch, etc., and the soil need to be abated. The word “abated” has a special meaning in regards to lead-based paint:

"Lead abatement projects are designed to permanently eliminate existing lead-based paint hazards. They may be ordered by state or local government in response to lead-poisoned child or other reason, or may be undertaken voluntarily at any time." - EPA

A lead abatement removes the sources that are causing the problem. this can include placing sheet rock or plywood over painted walls and floors. Encapsulating paint is not considered abatement.

A lead remediation removes all loose paint and repaints the area. Painting over lead paint is called a remediation. Friction points in doors and windows will still create lead dust.

The Judge limited each unit’s lead removal efforts to $140.  A trained, licensed, and insured lead abatement contractor can’t afford to send a crew out for $140, let alone do any work. So, that leaves this entire project in the hands of untrained, unlicensed, and uninsured workers to perform their best guess as to how to fix the problem. With no lead-based paint clearance testing following their efforts. Surely not the outcome that will do much good for families impacted by lead-based paints.

“…buyers and renters of housing built prior to 1978 receive certain information about lead and lead hazards in the residence prior to becoming obligated to buy or rent…..”  – Lead-based Paint Disclosure Rule (Section 1018 of Title X) – EPA

The Judge chose to exclude all homes built before 1950. Don’t be  

The Judge chose to exclude all exteriors and soil. Paint dust falls into the soil next to buildings with lead-based paint. Children play in the dirt and lick their hands. Lead is sweet. Children will continue to lick and eat dirt that is sweet. That’s why it is important to fix this problem to avoid damage to children.

The Judge chose to exclude all schools and businesses like pre-schools.

Hope for Parents

For Renters:

Part of Title X requires landlords to provide a pamphlet entitled Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home. This document is from EPA and required by HUD. This pamphlet is available in all languages. The landlords are required to know about the problem; often the landlords don’t know if a door, window, garden, or porch have lead-based paint, until it’s too late.

As a renter your options to control lead dust are limited. Daily cleanup works. How to Clean Up Lead Dust

For Homeowners:

When you purchased your home, it came with disclosures. Again, the Sellers may not have known lead-based paint was present. Assume lead-based paints are present until professional testing shows the absence of lead-based paints above the threshold limits.

EPA’s pamphlet Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home

Assume Lead-based Paint is Present

  1. Clean up the dust daily. See how here.
  2. Remove and repair all paint chips.
  3. Maintain repair of all painted surfaces.