lead-based peeling exterior paint
Lead, the metal pigment that once made paint so long lasting, is also a potent neurotoxin if ingested or inhaled by people or pets. If your house was built before 1978, there's a 75 percent chance that there's a layer of lead lurking in the paint. To lay any doubts to rest, send paint-chip samples from both siding and trim to a testing lab like Macs Lab. Unlike the simple (and frequently unreliable) lead-paint detection kits sold at home centers, a lab test can give you a definitive answer about the chemical makeup of the stuff you'll be scraping.

Now for some good news: lead paint is harmless when left undisturbed. As long as the old paint is well adhered, you can keep it safely encapsulated under a latex primer like Peel Bond and well maintained top coat. Preventing paint failure is the best, and cheapest defense against exposure.

But the time will come, inevitably, when that old paint will be disturbed as part of prepping your house for painting. There aren't any restrictions on hand sanding and scraping because the risk of exposure to dust is minor, but a few simple steps can help keep the lead from getting out of control:

• Spread 6-mil poly drop cloths along the perimeter of your house to catch the falling chips and dispose of them when you're done.

• Wet down surfaces before scraping or sanding to keep debris from going airborne.

• Wear a half-face respirator equipped with a HEPA filter cartridge or N100 disposable respirator and

• Wash hands before eating or drinking.

• Launder work clothes in separate cycle.

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