I live in a 100 year old house with my wife and 6 year old. I’ve recently gone down the lead paint rabbit hole online, as I realized that some of the trim in my home has lead paint. Usually under several layers of newer non-lead paint.

There are a couple of spots that have some chipping. Nothing major. Usually a window frame with a little inch-long spot that’s chipping off. I understand the dangers of lead paint, and I also understand that one of the recommended ways of dealing with lead paint is encapsulation. Unfortunately, I live in CA where they seem to not want regular folks like myself to be able to buy encapsulating primer. Perhaps to discourage DIY remediation.

I understand that, but I also know how expensive proper remediation can get. And it seems like massive overkill for me if I’ve essentially got a handful of touch ups to do.

This leads me to my question, and I can’t seem to find a clear answer online…

I keep seeing that special encapsulating primer is the only thing you can use to properly encapsulate. If I’m covering the chipped off trim spots w/ several layers of quality primer (stix), and layers of quality latex paint on top of that - how is this not sufficient for encapsulation? Is the lead dust going to sneak out from under the layers of regular primer and paint and fly everywhere? Someone set me straight on this.

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    The main danger with lead paint is eating of it by small children and by sanding, then eating/breathing the dust . No sanding or eating, can basically leave it alone.
    – crip659
    Commented Nov 7, 2023 at 23:30
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    Well, painted parts that move (ie, windows, sticky doors) create dust with lead in it; kids touch dust; kids stick their fingers in their mouth. So it’s not just sanding and chips. Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 0:25
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    Also - it seems like if friction was rubbing off spots of paint, an encapsulating primer wouldn’t do much good either. Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 0:48
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    @crip659 I think I read or heard that lead paint chips taste sweet so that's another concern if not all the paint is in good condition.
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 16:29
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    I had a friend who bought a house after the previous owner destroyed himself with lead paint while renovating. Obviously not your case BUT the dangers are real. Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 2:40

4 Answers 4


The main risk with lead paint is disturbing it, the encapsulating primer can stick to weathered surfaces without the need to sand the surface first,

If the surface you are painitng is a fresh surface (as it is under a chip) then anything that sticks to the surface is suitable. the lead is not going to migrate through layers of paint


One recurring theme here is "pop" home hazards being treated like plutonium, while genuine ones that will kill you being completely ignored. The person in a fuss about asbestos will later ask how to eliminate an annoying GFCI or how to change their dryer/range outlet to 3-prong. People suck at risk assessment unless they go to school for that.

It helps to understand the risk (or non-risk for you) by understanding how the hazard became "pop" i.e. got all the media coverage. In the 1940s there was a strong eugenics movement that did involve an actual shooting war in Europe. Scientists wanted to debunk "eugenics" as a concept, but a sticking point was solid data showing poor development in minority children. As scientists pulled on that thread, they found minority children were far more likely to live in (poorly maintained rental) homes with peeling paint. And toddlers would eat the paint peels or gnaw on window sills.

This is the threat vector that caused all the ruckus, to which you are reacting today.

So now you know: train children to not gnaw on trim (I don't imagine that will be a big problem), and do not tolerate peeling paint.

Now let's talk about the clear and present danger of lead: paint prep. The threat is ingestion (either as inhaled or swallowed dust). So do your sanding wet. Contain your chips and dust. Dispose of properly. Wear PPE (we're talking N95 mask).

And do paint prep. Falling short on paint prep only means more paint failure and more rework.

Paint salesmen of course would like you to use special primer and special paint. But it's really about the stuff I stated above. Lead isn't going to soak through any modern paint and menace you.


Some types of paint and primer do not adhere well to lead-based paint and will simply flake off after a surprisingly short time. You want to make sure that whatever you put on will stick.

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    – Community Bot
    Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 15:46

Your 6 year old is unlikely to eat any chips that flake off. Just use any primer/paint to cover it up. It is not a big deal if ingested in tiny quantities.

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    Lead paint actually tastes sweet, so children enjoy eating it. The OP's child may well eat the paint chips that flake off. Further, scientists have become increasingly concerned about the long-term impact of lead on the brain, especially in small children. There is currently considered to be no safe blood level of this element. Perhaps the risk in this case is small, but I would personally err on the side of caution.
    – Bob
    Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 8:42
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    @Bob: I wonder if a primer containing something like bitrex (a denaturing agent that's extremely bitter) might reduce the hazards from lead paint.
    – supercat
    Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 20:27

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