The Dangers of Lead-Based Paint in Homes

Date Published: July 20, 2022

It is no secret that lead is toxic. Over the years, authorities have made efforts to increase awareness about lead poisoning, end production and consumer use of lead products, and remove the substance from communities.

But the truth is, it is virtually impossible to completely eliminate lead hazards from all American communities. Because, for years, lead-based paint was the industry standard for residential homes. At one point in time, most (if not all) homes in America were being covered with this poisonous paint.

Peeling paint on exterior of house

Image sourced from:

So how have we addressed this public health predicament? Before we answer that question, let’s first discuss lead and why it’s such a hazard.

What Is Lead?

Lead is a metal element that occurs naturally in the earth’s crust. It is toxic to humans and animals and can cause serious health effects.


Lead (Pb) displayed on the periodic table

Image sourced from:

However, lead has many sought after characteristics such as high malleability, ductility, and resistance to corrosion. And thus, before its negative health effects were discovered, lead was utilized for many products such as pipes, paint, solder, and even cosmetics.

For years, lead was added to paint to increase its durability, accelerate drying, maintain a shiny, “new” look, and resist moisture-related corrosion. But as the paint chips, breaks down, and becomes airborne, its lead components pose serious health threats to individuals who are exposed.

Lead has been proven to cause nervous system, brain, kidney, and reproductive damage, and it can stunt growth and development. Those at the highest risk are children and pregnant women.

According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), a child’s developing body will absorb more lead than a full-grown adult’s body. Furthermore, children are more likely to put foreign objects that may have lead residue into their mouths. And lead-based paint is said to have a sweet flavor, which also explains why children have been known to ingest paint chips.

Naturally, as lead’s negative effects became more and more apparent, something had to be done.

The Governmental Ban on Lead-Based Paint

In 1978, the government banned the consumer use of lead-based paint. Consequently, if your house was built before 1978, it is more likely to have lead-based paint than a house built afterward.

Of course, many older homes have been renovated and repainted with the industry standard, lead-free paint. But in a lot of cases, old lead paint jobs are simply painted over. So lead-based paint may even still be present in an updated home.

Years after the lead ban, Congress passed the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992, which “require[d] the disclosure of known information on lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards before the sale or lease of most housing built before 1978.”

Under this bill, landlords or sellers are required to meet a list of criteria:

  1. Provide an EPA-approved pamphlet about lead-based paint.
  2. Disclose any known lead-based paint hazards.
  3. Provide any records or reports regarding lead-based paint hazards.
  4. Lease or contract must include a signed and dated attachment stating that landlord/seller has complied with all lead-related requirements.
  5. Sellers must allow buyers a 10-day period to conduct a lead test, if desired.
Front cover of "Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home" informational pamphlet

EPA-approved pamphlet about lead-based paint. Image sourced from:

The Act of 1992 certainly helped set a precedent for transparency regarding the potential dangers of lead. And it gave renters and/or buyers an extra peace of mind during their housing transactions.

Lots of buyers have taken advantage of the 10-day period allotted for lead testing (number 5 in the list shown above).

Scott Home Inspection does not offer lead testing services. However, we believe it is important for buyers to know about these services. And we encourage buyers to hire a qualified lead testing specialist when necessary.

In many US counties nationwide, the requirement for rental licenses has taken lead-based paint safety standards a step further. Let’s talk about the latest addition to Colorado’s rental market – Denver’s new rental licensing program – and how it will address lead hazards.

How Do Denver Rental License Inspections Address Lead Hazards?

As of recent, one of the biggest changes in the Colorado rental market is Denver’s new rental licensing program.

This program will require all multi-family rental properties to be licensed by January 1, 2023, and single family rental properties to be licensed by January 1, 2024.

Under this program, specialized rental license inspections are required in order to legally lease a rental in Denver county. The program’s main purpose is to ensure that renters are living in safe and healthy conditions.

These rental inspections are multi-faceted, covering many aspects of the property, including (you guessed it) lead-based paint hazards.

The Denver Residential Rental Program Checklist Guidebook covers matters regarding lead hazards in section 5.2:

5.2 – Free of Lead Hazards and Hazards Associated with Water Intrusion (RH, 2-209 A 2):

A. Floors, interior walls and ceilings, and other members such as baseboards, moldings, and door frames shall be:

2. Free from holes, cracks, breaks, dampness, mold associated with dampness, loose or peeling paint, lead hazards, loose or peeling plaster or wallpaper;

Additional Explanation – As in 5.1, for the purposes of theses inspections, purely aesthetic defects should not be considered non-compliant with this regulation. Inspectors should check for signs of water intrusion, mold and lead hazards.

For the purposes of these inspections a “Lead Hazard” means the existence of deteriorated, lead-based paint in the interior or exterior of a dwelling unit or structure constructed prior to January 1, 1979.

In properties built prior to January 1, 1979, if peeling paint is observed, the inspector should measure the area of the deteriorated paint. If the deteriorated paint is inside and the surface area is larger than six (6) sqft, or is on the exterior of the building and the surface area is larger than twenty (20) sqft, the inspector should test for lead-based paint.

Any publicly available lead testing kit may be used. If the test shows evidence of lead-based paint the property should be considered non-compliant with this regulation.

If the property is found to have a lead hazard as defined above, before being able to pass any subsequent inspection, the property owner/manager will need to have a certified lead professional remediate the lead based paint in accordance with EPA and CDPHE regulations.

The above excerpt establishes the standard to which the rental license inspector must adhere. Essentially, in order to qualify a section of a home as a “lead hazard,” the inspector must ask themself three key questions:

Was the house built before 1979? Is there deteriorated and/or peeling paint on the premise? If so, how large is the deteriorated area? 

If the answer to the first two questions is a “yes,” and the answer to the last question is “greater than 6 square feet (for interior), and/or greater than 20 square feet (for exterior),” then further testing for lead-based paint is needed. After testing, if lead-based paint evidence is confirmed, then remediation is required.

Our Denver Rental License Inspection Services

Here at Scott Home Inspection, the safety and comfort of Colorado residents is our number one concern. So as this new chapter of Denver’s rental market rolls out, we are on board and prepared to be of service.

We have been providing the Boulder area with the necessary rental license inspections for over 10 years, so we are equipped and prepared to offer the same level of high-quality service in the Denver rental market.

If you are a Denver property manager and/or landlord in need of licensing, feel free to contact us about our Denver Rental License Inspection Services.

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About the Author: Chris Kimmel

Chris Kimmel worked as an Associate Home Inspector for two years, handling numerous services including sewer scope inspections, pest inspections, mold air sample testing, radon testing, and water quality testing. Chris now works with Scott Home Inspection as a Content Writing Specialist.

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