A good refrence guide for when dealing with Lead in Painted Surfaces whilst Repainting and Removing for DIY and Professional Painters and Decorators
UK decorative paint suppliers want to ensure that the public and professional painters and
decorators continue to be aware of the potential risks in homes, commercial properties and
public buildings that are associated with xposure to old painted surfaces that contain lead.
The adoption of the best practices, which protect decorators, and others likely to be
affected by exposure to any disturbed old lead painted surfaces, is a key requirement in the
process of removal and repainting activities.
Lead is hazardous to health.
It can be breathed in as dust, fume or vapour.
It can be swallowed in the form of paint chips, dust or dirt containing lead or in drinking
water or in food, especially if you have not washed your hands.
Lead contained in old lead painted surfaces cannot be absorbed through the skin.
If the amount of lead in your body gets too high it can cause:
Note: These symptoms can also have causes other than lead exposure so they do not necessarily mean that lead poisoning has occurred.
Very young children would be particularly vulnerable to these potential adverse health
effects of elevated levels of lead in the blood. Children absorb lead mostly by eating it or
touching contaminated dust or soil and then putting their fingers into their mouths.
An unborn child is at particular risk from lead exposure, especially in the early weeks before
a pregnancy becomes known.
If you are a woman capable of having children you should take special care to follow good
working practices and a high level of personal hygiene. Similarly unnecessary exposure of
children to lead should be eliminated as a precautionary measure.
If you think that your health, or the health of any member of your family may have been
affected by lead you should contact your local doctor immediately or call:
England and Wales – NHS Direct 0845 4647
Scotland – NHS Scotland 08454 242424
Lead pigments were taken out of most paints in the 1960s and lead pigments and driers
were completely removed by the early 1980s. Many surfaces painted before the 1960s
could contain significant lead; although this applies mainly to wood and metal surfaces.
Lead pigments, either as a white pigment (lead carbonate/lead sulphate) or sometimes as a
colouring pigment (lead chromes) were widely used in decorative paints applied in houses
and other buildings (schools, hospitals etc.). Although leaded paint has not been used for
many decades old lead painted surfaces can still be found, and can represent a possible
source of exposure.
To be absolutely certain whether or not lead-containing paint is present on any particular
surface, the paint needs to be tested by a specialist laboratory (a), a professional decorator
(b) knowledgeable about the subject or a specialist company ©.
Lead test kits, that give a simple indication of the presence of lead, are available from some
retailers and trade counters and directly from distributors (d). If the instructions for use are
followed carefully, and the test paper shows a positive response then lead is present.
However as the test is not necessarily 100% accurate a negative reading should not be relied
upon to show the absence of lead and if you think there could be lead present then a
quantitative test should be carried out – see c) below.
a) Details of analytical laboratories which carry out lead testing are available from the
United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) telephone 0208 917 8555 website www.ukas.org
b) Contact the following for further information:
Painting and Decorating Association, 32 Cotton Road, Nuneaton CV11 5TW Ttelephone 0247 635 3776, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org website www.paintingdecoratingassociation.co.uk
Scottish Decorators Federation, Castlecraig Business Park, Stirling FK7 7SH telephone 01786 448838, e-mail email@example.com website www.scottishdecorators.co.uk
The Guild of Master Craftsmen, 166 High Street, Lewes BN7 1XU,
telephone 01273 478449, website www.guildmc.com
c) The following specialist companies can conduct checks for lead paint
Lead Paint Safety Association (LIPSA), telephone 0844 544 6187, e-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org website www.lipsa.org.uk
Lead Test Home Analysis Service, telephone 0131 669 8770, (0790 194
1954), e-mail email@example.com, website www.leadcheck.co.uk
Envirohive, telephone 01276 501439, website http://www.envirohive.co.uk/leadpaint.html
Paint samples can be sent to the following for rapid assessment:
BLC (British Leather Technology Centre), telephone 01604 679999, website http://www.blcleathertech.com/testing-services/paint-lead-testing.htm
CPA Laboratories, telephone 01603 624555, website http://www.cpalaboratories.com/our-services/lead-testing-in-paint.aspx
LPD Lab Services, telephone 01254 676074, website http://www.lpdlabservices.co.uk/consultancy/health_and_safety_consultancy/lead_(pb)_in_paint_analysis.php
d) Available from:
B&Q stores, location of stores can be found at www.diy.com Lead test kits should be
available at store counters.
Lead Paint Safety Association, www.lipsa.org.uk
Lead Test Home Analysis Service, www.leadtest.co.uk
3M Lead Check Swabs order online from www.leadcheck.com (USA site)
Please note links to third parties do not imply or confer endorsement by the BCF.
Whilst lead is hazardous to health it is important to realise that there is only a risk if the
paint film is unsound or disturbed.
If the lead-containing painted surface is in good condition and/or is already protected (overcoated) with a non-lead containing paint and is maintained in a good condition then
removal could result in a greater exposure to lead dusts and particles than would otherwise
occur from leaving the paint undisturbed.
Old lead painted surfaces should only be treated or removed if the paint (film) is flaking or
chipping away or if dusts and particles are present or if there is the possibility of the painted surface being chewed or sucked by children.
The precautions outlined below should be carefully followed by both professional
decorators and by DIY users. Do-it-yourselfers who are in any way uncertain about their
ability to follow these precautions should consult a professional decorator.
It is important that the following precautions are taken when renovating/removing old lead
a) Avoid creation of lead-containing dusts or fumes.
b) Prohibit anyone not involved in the work from the area, and preferably the
building until the area has been thoroughly and effectively cleaned.
c) Ensure no children or pregnant women are present in any area where renovation
work which involves the disturbance of lead-containing surfaces is taking place.
d) Do not smoke, eat or drink in the work area.
It is advised that the following steps are taken prior to starting work.
a) Remove furniture, curtains and soft furnishing as far as possible. If this cannot be
done, cover these and other permanent items (including flooring) with plastic
sheeting sealed with heavy duty tape. Beware of slipping on these surfaces.
b) Keep people out of area – see: i) Introduction (above).
c) Wear overalls and rubber gloves within the work area, and remove them before
leaving the area.
d) For outside working contamination of the soil should be avoided. Cover all grass,
garden beds etc. within the near vicinity with plastic sheeting. Avoid working in
To remove the old lead-containing paint carry out one or more of the following.
a) To prepare surfaces in good condition (no flaking, loss of adhesion from the
underlying surface) for repainting the surface should be rubbed down wet with
waterproof abrasive paper to provide a key for new coat(s) of paint. The debris
from rubbing down should not be allowed to dry out and form dust. It should be
removed with a damp cloth and the cloth, abrasive paper and any other debris
placed in a plastic bag, sealed and disposed of. Avoid any dust creation.
b) In the case of walls and ceilings these can be best treated with wallcoverings or
lining paper after a) above.
c) To completely remove paint in a poor condition;
Either: Use a chemical paint stripper, ensuring that all instructions on the
container are carefully followed. A suitable face mask to protect from fumes
might be required. Such masks will NOT protect against dusts and should not be
used for such purposes.
[For stripping doors a specialist stripping company, which can remove the paint
safely and completely in stripping baths, can be used.]
Or: Use a paint scraper and wet abrasive paper, both these operations should be
carried out after wetting the surface and the surface should be kept wet
throughout to avoid dust and flakes becoming air-borne. The debris from
scraping and rubbing down should not be allowed to dry out and form dust. It
should be removed with a damp cloth and the cloth, abrasive paper and other
debris placed in a plastic bag, sealed and disposed of.
Or: Use infra red (IR) stripping equipment to soften the paint film sufficiently to
be able to scrape it off. The softened paint should be scraped immediately into a
suitable container before it re-hardens. A suitable face mask to protect exposure
to lead containing dusts may be required. Any subsequent surface preparation
should be done wet with waterproof abrasive paper.
Or: Use a hot air gun to soften the paint film sufficiently to be able to scrape it
off. The softened paint should be scraped immediately into a suitable container
before it re-hardens. A suitable face mask to protect exposure to lead containing
dusts may be required. Take care that the paint does not burn. Any subsequent
surface preparation should be done wet with waterproof abrasive paper.
iv) Clean up prior to redecoration
Thoroughly wash all surfaces, both those from which lead containing paints have been
removed and others in the work area. Allow to dry before applying new paint, or
wallcoverings to walls and ceilings.
Vacuum all surfaces with a vacuum cleaner fitted with a high efficiency particle air filter
(HEPA). Many vacuum cleaners are fitted with HEPA filters and are marked as such.
Dispose of all debris, including masks and filters in plastic bags and seal with tape –
householders should place these bags in the dustbin. Professional decorators should dispose
of the waste in accordance with the Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) Regulations
1991 (and amendments). Lead-containing wastes do not fall within the definition of special
wastes, but the Environment Agency may classify them as such. Professional painters are
advised to check with their local waste regulator on appropriate disposal routes.
Clean up all debris frequently, as well as at the end of each day. Remove all debris from the
work area before redecorating.
DO NOT burn or incinerate lead-containing wastes.
If paint is in sound condition do NOT remove it, especially if the lead paint is not the top
layer – just overcoat
If in doubt check whether old lead paint is present (see 3 above)
Keep anyone not carrying out the work out of the area
Keep dusts to a minimum – only use wet abrasive paper
Do NOT use blow lamps or gas torches to strip paint
Do NOT create lead fumes by over-heating lead containing paints
Wear protective clothing and masks (if required)
Clean up thoroughly after the removal of old lead paint
Do NOT burn or incinerate lead-containing wastes.
1 This document replaces the earlier British Coatings Federation publications on the subject of lead in decorative coatings, which
includes the booklet ‘Old Lead Painted Surfaces – A guide to repainting and removal for D-I-Y and professional painters and decorators’
published in 1998.
The information contained in this publication is believed at the time of publication to be true
and accurate. It is based on general principles and is intended for general guidance and
information only. Its applicability to individual circumstances must be considered, having full
regard to the specific prevailing conditions. All recommendations contained in this
publication are made without guarantee and the British Coatings Federation cannot accept
any liability in respect of consequences arising (whether directly or indirectly) from use of
© BCF 2011