Does My Home or Childcare Center Have Lead Paint?

About 3 out of every 4 homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint. The older the home, the higher the risk. Lead dust can be spread when painted surfaces like windows and doors bump or rub together, and when paint cracks, peels, or is disturbed during renovations and repairs. You cannot see lead dust, but it can get on things inside and outside a building like shoes, toys, food, fingers, dirt, or almost anything.

Even a little lead in a child’s blood can hurt their ability to learn, pay attention, and do well in school. You can give them a huge boost in school and for the rest of the lives by learning more and taking a few simple steps today. Call or text us at 808-733-9012 for free help and advice. If your home has lead paint, make sure to hire lead-safe contractors that use lead-safe practices for any repairs or renovations.

How Do I Test My Home For Lead

There are two recommended ways to test your home for lead:

  1. Hire a Certified Inspector/Assessor: The best way to find out whether there are lead hazards in your home or yard is to hire a Hawaii State Certified Lead Inspector/Risk Assessor to complete a lead inspection. See the Lead Firm List for a directory of consultants and contractors registered with the State of Hawaii that can be hired to perform lead-related services. You can also use this search engine provided by EPA.
  2. Collect Samples and Send Them to a Lab: If you decide to collect samples yourself, be sure to follow proper procedures outlined below. Lead test results are only as good as your testing procedures. The most important areas to test for lead are where your child spends a lot of time, where there is chipping paint or bare soil, and/or where you plan to renovate. Wash your hands and your tools with soap and water after each sample you collect. The samples will need to be sent to a laboratory for testing. We recommend a National Lead Laboratory Accredited Laboratory (NLLAP) for paint and soil and a Hawaii State Department of Health Certified Lab for drinking water. Call the laboratory you choose ahead of time for more specific instructions on collection methods, mailing guidelines, and documentation.
    • Paint Samples: If you have different colored paint, it is a good idea to collect them as separate samples. Tape a clean, plastic bag beneath some paint you want to test. Use a clean scraper or knife to scrape at least the size of a quarter amount of paint into the bag. Be sure to scrape off all the layers of paint, not just the top coat. Try not to get any drywall or wood that is under the paint in the bag. Seal the bag and label it with where the sample was collected (i.e. Sample #1 – bathroom wall).
      • Paint is considered hazardous lead-based paint when it tests greater than or equal to:
        • 5,000 ppm (parts per million); or
        • 0.5% by weight
    • Soil Samples: Bare soil where your child frequents or plays should be the first to be tested. Use a large, clean trowel or spoon to scoop the top 1/2 inch of dirt (approximately 1 cup) into a clean, plastic bag. Collect the sample from the top of the soil that you want to test. If there are paint chips in the soil, these are okay to include in the sample. Seal the bag and label it with where the sample was collected (i.e. Sample #2 – playground). Watch this video for more information.
      • Soil is considered hazardous for lead when it tests greater than or equal to:
        • 200 ppm for residential properties
    • Water Samples: Two types of samples should be collected from each faucet used for drinking or cooking. The first sample is called a “first draw” sample and identifies whether there may be lead in the faucet fixture. To collect this sample, fill a 250 mL bottle with water from a faucet that has not been used for 8-18 hours. The second type of sample is called a “flush” sample and identifies whether there may be lead in the pipes. To collect this sample, let the same faucet run for at least 30 seconds and then fill another 250 mL bottle with water. Repeat this process for each faucet you are testing.
      • There is no consensus on what level requires action. The EPA action level is 15 part per billion (ppb); but this is not a health-based standard, and many experts believe no amount of lead in drinking water is safe.
        • For comparison purposes, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that school water fountains should not exceed 1 ppb, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires bottled water to be less than 5 ppb.
        • If the “first draw” sample contains lead and the “flush” sample does not, it is likely that the faucet fixture is causing lead contamination.
        • If both samples contain lead, it is likely that the pipes are causing lead contamination. The faucet fixture may also contain lead.
    • Dust Samples: Dust samples require specific materials and expertise, so we do not recommend collecting these samples on your own.
      • Dust is considered hazardous for lead when it tests greater than or equal to:
        • 10 mcg/sq ft (micrograms per square foot) on floors
        • 100 mcg/sq ft on interior window sills

Can I Use Lead Test Kits From a Hardware Store?

Lead test kits are commercially available at most paint and hardware stores. They contain swabs that change color when rubbed against a surface that contains hazardous levels of lead. Be sure to follow all instructions on the package and test ALL layers of paint by using a clean, very sharp knife to cut a small x-shape to expose all painted layers down to the bare surface before using the swab. If you don’t use the swab correctly, the test results will not be valid. These tests are only screening tools that give limited information about paint in one area that you test. Do not make the mistake of using these tests to prove that you don’t have lead paint. Get areas tested professionally before starting repairs or renovations.

Resources for Families

What You Need to Know About When Working With Lead-Based Paint

Renovation, Repair and Painting Program: Do-It-Yourselfers