Home inspections reveal lead paint problems in St. Louis

Due to its toxic nature, lead paint is no longer used in the construction of homes in the United States, but that does not mean that homeowners are entirely immune to its effects, especially children, who are more vulnerable. Fortunately, a home inspection can reveal the presence of lead paint before it causes harm to residents.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned lead paint for use in homes in 1978, although buildings built before then may still have traces of lead paint in them, including in pipes, which can contaminate water sources. The mental health problems traced to exposure to lead in children are so serious that one community in St. Louis is addressing the problem directly.

The Heavy Metal Project is an initiative that will pay for low-income pregnant women to have their homes inspected for lead. Members of the organization will have lead safely removed if it is discovered. Considering that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 20 million homes still have lead paint in them, this initiative could help save an at-risk population from a lifetime of health problems.

"You're going to be doing the work a few years later on a lot of these properties anyway," study author Daniel Berg told NPR. "We're shifting it to find the hazards before the kids are poisoned. The idea is to prevent it up front."

Homeowners in the Washington, D.C. area may recall an incident in 2004 involving elevated lead levels in their drinking water.  Although levels are now under control, The Washington Post reported in 2010 that the CDC used incomplete data to downplay the serious nature of high lead levels in drinking water.

Tri-State area residents should take matters into their own hands and hire a Washington, D.C. home inspector if their house was built prior to 1978. Home inspection contractors are especially important when a home is purchased.