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Lead Paint's Dangers

September 24, 2000

In Ask the Inspector by Barry Stone, "When Buying an Older House, Ask Plenty of Questions" (Sept. 10), the question of whether lead paint disclosure is a requirement and, if so, what a homeowner should do about it was answered in a possibly misleading way.

The article implied that lead poisonings are primarily caused because small children "known to teethe on painted woodwork" ingest the paint. While "eating" paint is one cause of lead poisonings (statistics from health departments show that paint chewing caused only a tiny fraction of all reported lead poisonings), it is not the primary one.

Children mainly get lead poisoned from ingested lead dust. The route of ingestion is typically from toys or other objects lying in the lead dust on floors, window sills, cabinet shelves, etc., then placed in mouths. Thus, advice to "not become unduly alarmed as lead does not pose a health threat by its mere presence" is ignoring the fact that friction surfaces that have lead paint on them generate lead dust, which causes lead poisonings. Yes, lead paint in good condition is not necessarily considered a hazard. However, lead paint can become a hazard if a sufficient amount of dust is created by friction or impact.

In addition, the article stated: "Houses that were acquired through foreclosure by banks or other creditors are exempt because the owners in such cases are presumably unaware of specific property conditions, having not been in personal possession or occupancy." That is not what Title X, the federal law that requires disclosure of known lead-based paint, states. The Environmental Protection Agency, the enforcing agency for Title X, states that residential properties acquired through foreclosure are exempt until the bank-creditor takes title to the property. Once the bank-creditor takes title, that entity becomes the owner of the property. Then all the provisions of Title X apply and the bank-creditor must disclose.

I hope these clarifications help to answer the disclosure question a little more fully.

PRUDENCE BOCZARSKI

Los Angeles

Boczarski is a state certified lead-in-construction project designer, supervisor, monitor and inspector-assessor.

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