I'd like to buy an older home (I live in CT), but with 2 little kids, I'm worried about lead. The confounding issue is that our real estate agent strongly discourages us from doing lead testing for houses we're interested in. The reasoning is that we already know it's there (e.g., a house built in 1938 that hasn't been renovated), but if we do the test, then we are legally required to acknowledge it (e.g., when selling the house, when doing renovations, if we want to foster children). I tried to research how much it would cost to completely remove lead in a home, and it looks like it could be 10-20k for windows, 20k for interior paint, 20k for exterior paint. That is it would cost us maybe 50k or more to be able to be able to say there's No lead. This "all or nothing" approach seems unpractical to me, and hopefully, unnecessary.

It seems like I should research on my own whether this is something I can shop for in a house (i.e., should I exclude all houses built earlier than 1978) or fix before moving in (without doing testing). I don't want to buy a house, address the issues, discover that wasn't sufficient, but then be unable to afford fully fixing the issue.

I can't find any reference describing how much lead needs to be removed or encapsulated in order to reach a safe level. Everything I've seen seems to just conclude

  1. there is no known safe threshold for lead ingestion, therefore
  2. less lead in the house is always better if you're worried, but
  3. you don't want to wait for an elevated blood test to discover your abatement was inadequate (lead brain damage is irreversible).
  4. dust level safety standards are set based on practicality, not exclusively effectiveness
  5. an abatement plan will be created for me when necessary (but this isn't useful since I don't have a house yet)

Note, I'm not asking a health question here (I already found something useful for that). What I'm looking for are more specific guidelines which explain what kind of abatements are necessary to achieve this recent standard or better:

EPA is lowering the dust-lead hazard standards from 40 micrograms of lead per square foot (µg/ft2) to 10 µg/ft2 on floors and from 250 µg/ft2 to 100 µg/ft2 on window sills.

For example, here are some possible abatement steps:

  1. It seems clear that deteriorated paint must be repaired
  2. But should I require no lead in windows/doors?
  3. Remove lead from any chewable surfaces (e.g., window sills)
  4. The actual encapsulating paint (not just painted over) everywhere?

Or does anyone know where could I look to get these kinds of answers?

  • 1
    Well paragraph 2 gives some limits and the link is easy to find : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead_poisoning
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 29, 2019 at 11:20
  • 6
    It seems to me that your real estate agent is more interested in selling a home than in your safety. Yes, if you know that the home contains lead, you may be obligated to disclose that information. But more importantly for this situation, knowing that it has lead may very well lead YOU to avoid buying this property and potentially costing the agent the sale. It seems to me that you would want to know there is lead and either negotiate a fair compensation from the seller or move on.
    – jwh20
    Jul 29, 2019 at 13:17
  • 1
    In a competently maintained middle-class home with adequate supervision of children, there is very little risk of lead poisoning. The issue is government action, which may be erratic. Jul 29, 2019 at 16:12
  • 1
    @Harper Citation? Jul 29, 2019 at 16:19
  • 1
    I agree with Harper keep the kids from chewing on the walls and trim and there is no risk. You can seal the walls and trim so lead doesn’t show on testing but let the kids chew on the walls and trim and they will be exposed
    – Ed Beal
    Jul 31, 2019 at 18:34

1 Answer 1


So what will you do if, later on, either

(A) a third-party such as a case worker does a lead test and it comes out positive,

(B) you want to sell the house and the prospective buyer insists on a lead-free warranty

If you're going to muck with a house of that age , especially moving in with small kids, do the right thing and get it lead-free (or encapsulated). Lead damage in people is irreversible.

  • 2
    According to current regulations, a case worker won't require abatement if there isn't visible pealing paint, but if we do a test, they'll make us abate. AFAIK, this is illogical. I don't think a buyer can insist on a lead-free warranty in this market, although they may pay less for a house where there's confirmed lead. We want a single family house in the city (where almost all have lead) but it doesn't make financial sense to remove all the lead (according to estimates from homeadvisor.com). It seems we must compromise, so I want to know how much flexibility I have on safety requirements.
    – amos
    Jul 29, 2019 at 22:20
  • Well, that's my understanding of the regulations anyway.
    – amos
    Jul 29, 2019 at 22:21

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