What to do: Move the kids out of the house until it's decontaminated, says Chicago pediatrician Helen Binns, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’s Committee on Environmental Health. Take them to the doctor for a blood test to check for elevated lead levels. Then vacuum up all debris with a HEPA vacuum and thoroughly wash all belongings, from bedding to toys to cookware. "The one thing that can really never be cleaned is the rugs,” says Binns. “They should be removed and discarded."
How to keep this from happening to you: If your house was built before 1978, when the use of lead paint was banned, make sure your painter follows lead-safe techniques, says Martanaze Hancock, chief trainer at Atrium Environmental Health and Safety Services, which runs a lead-safe education program for painting contractors. For exterior painting, these include sealing windows.