When considering an older home to purchase, one item to remember exists on the walls and window sills.
Before 1978, many houses were painted with lead-based paint. Exposure to lead-based products led to many health related issues including abdominal pain and cramps, constipation, sleep problems, headaches, loss of appetite, fatigue, high blood pressure, numbness, memory loss and intellectual disabilities. In severe cases, symptoms include vomiting, seizures and coma. Although lead toxicity is rare after a single exposure, it is hard to reverse chronic exposure.
This is one detail that could be major if not considered when looking at older houses as a homebuyer. Realtors and inspectors among others have insight and information, but ultimately, it comes down to the seller and buyer of that older home.
“Both the seller and buyer have responsibilities when it comes to lead-based paint,” explained Traci McCarthy, of Ebby Halliday Realtors in Sherman. “We have to supply the pamphlet, but the sellers and buyers have to fill out the paperwork as part of the purchase process.”
The paperwork aspect is straightforward and only consists of one or two pages, but they are specific and required by law.
“Sellers have to declare if they have knowledge of lead-based paint in the home and they have to say if they have had reports of LBP on the property,” explained McCarthy. “And the buyers must answer on the addendum if they got the report, and do they want an evaluation of the property.”
McCarthy added that the forms are official and are filed with the closing documents in the process. There is also an informational document, “Protect your Family from Lead in the Home,” provided.
McCarthy said that she, as a Realtor, hasn’t had any sellers declare lead-based paint or have any reports of LBP. She said she has never had a buyer request an evaluation, but emphasized that each house and transaction is unique and should be considered in its own situation.
Ronnie Cole, a Realtor with Virginia Cook in Denison, said there is one specific reason for the LBP form.
“It’s a safety issue,” said Cole. “It’s a government required form to prevent people from getting exposed to lead-based ailments. You can’t have too much information in these situations.”
Cole said in his experience there aren’t any records before 1978. Many houses have lead-based paint, but usually, it is painted over, which can contain the lead exposure. But he advised that homebuyers should be prudent. The buyer has 10 days to have an LBP evaluation done.
“If you are concerned at all, you should have it inspected for lead,” Cole said.
Frank Edwards, of Texoma Property Inspectors, noted that he and other home inspectors are not allowed to test for lead-based paint because it is a specific item, which is specialized and requires certification. The Grayson County Health Department Environmental Services Offices does not do such inspections and inspectors are not certified for LBP evaluations. Officials referred perspective homebuyers to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
According to TDSHS, there are certified inspectors in Texas, which are regulated and certified by TDSHS. Homebuyers who want LBP evaluations should consult such inspectors when the need arises.
One such inspector is David Alavi, of A&W Environmental Services in Dallas. He doesn’t know of many TDSHS certified LBP inspectors in the area which is made evident by the amount of travel he does to do such inspections. He noted that he isn’t specifically required to get reports back within 24 hours, but it is his goal when he does LBP inspections.
“When you are in such situations, you can’t necessarily tell by age (of the house),” explained Alavi. “And you can’t tell (if there is lead) by looking.”
Alavi uses the Texas Department of Health guidelines to do comprehensive testing of any and all single components of possible lead exposure that are painted, varnished or covered in any other way. The results of his testing will tell if lead is present in the paint or other substance.
Alavi, who has been doing LBP inspections for 12 years, explained that paint is deteriorating as time goes on. If lead is present, there are four methods approved by TDSHS to contain it — replace, encapsulate, enclose or repair.
“You never get rid of the deterioration,” explained Alavi. “You get it to ‘No Hazard’ status. There will still be some lead present, but it won’t hurt you. This is called ‘Interim Control.’”
According to Alavi, the two R’s in REER are basically scrapping and repainting, which takes care of the lead exposure in most cases. Sometimes, encapsulation is done to isolate the hazard and finally, enclosure can be done by using siding or other wall covering at the site.
Alavi noted that encapsulation and enclosure are the two more expensive options of the four methods. And therefore most people opt for replacing and repairing, which usually contains the deterioration and presents “No Hazard” at the site.