hand cutting exterior paint to check for lead
Photo: Anthony Tieuli
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The Dangers

Of course, lead is far more than just a cost concern for the Sharmas, who have two kids; children are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning's effects, which can range from chronic headaches to brain damage. The danger occurs when they ingest paint chips or chew on "mouthable surfaces" containing lead, such as painted moldings, or inhale lead dust embedded in, say, floor cracks. If lead paint is in good repair, and not pulling away from surfaces, the EPA says it's safe and acceptable to encapsulate it with special primers, such as Child Guard, which seal in the toxins and have a bitter taste to deter children. If you choose to undertake lead abatement yourself, be sure to follow the same precautions as the pros. (Check out epa.gov/lead/ for more information.)

Shown: Cutting into the wood allows him to see whether lead is present in deeper layers of paint.
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