Before you paint or do home-improvement projects this summer, take some precautions, especially if your house was built before 1978.

Houses that were built prior to 1978 likely have lead paint, and lead exposure can cause serious health issues, especially in children and pregnant women.

But “the good news is that lead’s presence is only hazardous when it’s consumable, either by breathing or ingesting,” said William Stoudt, director of the Preservation Resource Center’s Rebuilding Together New Orleans program, which works with homeowners on lead remediation. “Peeling paint is the biggest culprit.”

Before tampering with the paint on your walls, sills, woodwork or windows, follow these steps:

  • Wear a respirator mask to protect against lead dust. Be sure the mask has an appropriate filter, such as N96.
  • Test for lead in the layers of paint that will be exposed. Lead test swabs can be found at most hardware or paint stores, Stoudt said. Be careful when removing paint chips for testing. Turn off air conditioners or fans to prevent paint dust from spreading around the house.
  • Follow the EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule guidelines when remediating lead paint.
  • If you think you have lead and need help call Rebuilding Together New Orleans or the Louisiana Department of Health.

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