Lead Based Paint

Older homes in Ottawa and across Canada used to be painted with paint products that contained Lead.
shows old rusted paint cans
Using Lead Paint products came with many risks. For example the painter who used the paint for house painting was put at risk of developing health issues. Breathing problems, Asthma and possibly even lung cancer when exposed to it for long periods of time.
Back before the 1960’s and up to about the 1990’s all paint products contained lead. Imagine the painters who were painting for hours on end in homes being exposed for years to this toxic chemical. It was no wonder they’d come home feeling nauscious, suffer headaches and overall ill health. Not all wore masks and we have to wonder if masks were even a part of the painters tool box back in those days.
We may ask ourselves Why was lead in paint used? – Paint manufacturers used to use lead compounds and added it to the paint as a pigment which created a specific colour dependent on which compound was used. This heavy metal (lead) when added to paint helped to decrease the amount of time the paint took to dry when the painter applied it. It also created a more durable and more moisture resistant paint. Read our article on The Difference Between Water Based Paints and Solvent Based Paints

The Risks of Lead Based Paint

Lead poisoning and exposure to it in your home from the paint used on the walls, windows, doors, & ceilings can put you and your family at risk for serious health problems. Some of those health problems can be Anaemia (which is a deficiency of red blood cells). Lead poisoning can also cause brain and nervous system damage. The biggest risk lead poisoning is for children who tend to absorb it more as they grow. Unborn children are at risk if their expecting mother consumes or is exposed to lead. Small amounts that may even be in the dust particles in our homes are dangerous to infants and children. There is no current “safe” level of exposure to any lead, so precautions can and must be taken.
Shows older home in Ottawa exterior

Knowing if your Home contains Lead-based Paint

In order to protect yourself, your family and the unborn and small children you must take the necessary steps to ensure your home is lead-based paint free.
Knowing if your Home contains Lead-Based Paint will provide you with the safety in knowing you can breathe easier. Here’s a few questions to ask yourself so that you can tell if you have lead-based paints in your house.

  • Was your home built before 1960
  • Is the paint chipping
  • Is the paint peeling
  • Is the paint flaking or cracking

If your home was built before 1960 it is most likely your walls, ceilings, trim, baseboards, doors and windows (entire house) have been painted with lead based paints. Lead-free paints only started to come into play in and around 1990. So all homes after 1990 were built with lead free materials and painters used only lead-free paint products.
If this is your case, where your house was built before 1960, such as older Ottawa neighborhoods like The Glebe, Little-Italy-Preston Street Area, Lebreton Flats, Westboro, Dow’s Lake, Beechwood-Vanier or Rockcliffe you are better off leaving the lead-based paint alone. It is safer to leave it than to remove it because disrupting it (just like asbestos) may create more of a hazard in the air and in your home. It’s not always the case but if you have questions or concerns it’s best to check with our Canadian Government by visiting their website for health services and information. You can send paint chip samples to a lab for analysis. Some general contractors or painting contractors may also be able to help you diagnose it by providing an inspection with the proper x-ray equipment to detect the lead on all painted surfaces. The contractor should be an accredited/certified professional who has the expert knowledge and safe equipment to diagnose the lead issue. Ensure that there is no paint chipping, peeling, flaking or cracking that small children can touch and possibly ingest. Lead-based paint can be removed but has specific guidelines and precautions to be adhered too before it can be removed. If you want to remove and test a paint chip sample yourself, then being extra careful, pick a spot, scrape away individual layer(s) of the paint (be sure to wear mask, goggles and gloves) then send them to a lab for analysis.

Reduce the Risk of Lead Poisoning

You can reduce the risk of lead poisoning by doing some of the following essential and important steps.
If lead-based paint needs to be removed from the walls you need to consider the following:

  1. Keep the work area free of pregnant women and children as they are the highest at risk
  2. Hire an expert/professional to remove it properly. Someone who is experienced in the lead-based removal safety. They should have the appropriate documentations/accreditations to prove this as they run a risk both to you and your family as well as themselves if they are not fully knowledgeable in the safety precautions necessary to take on such a project.
  3. If you insist on doing it yourself, please ensure proper masks, and hand protection (gloves) and eye protection (goggles) are used. You can use a chemical paint stripper paste that is applied with a paint brush. If you get any of the chemical stripper on your clothing you should remove the clothing immediately and wash separately from any other clothing. If you get any of the chemical stripper on your skin – wash it off immediately as well.
  4. The use of sanders, heat guns or lamps are dangerous to use because they create toxic dust and fumes and spread the lead around.
  5. All furniture, toys, personal belongings should be removed from the area. If not removed at minimal a plastic (heavy duty) sheet should be used to cover everything. Perhaps taping down the plastic to the floors or walls to ensure complete coverage and protection is also a good idea.
  6. Cover all doorways, entry ways, vents with plastic to prevent any paint particles from spreading throughout the house.
  7. Set up a fan or fans that blow air out through an open window. This will ensure the area or room you are working in is well ventilated and fumes are blowing away from you.
  8. Try to work in 10 minute intervals when using the chemical stripper to remove lead-based paints. This will allow you to take the necessary time to leave the area, get some outdoor fresh air. If you begin to feel dizzy, confused, disoriented, begin to experience a headache or develop breathing issues you must leave the area immediately and get outdoors to breath fresh natural air.
  9. Do Not use anything that may cause a spark or static electricity in the work area.
  10. DO NOT eat, drink or smoke in the work area.
  11. At the end of each day, clean up the work area thoroughly. Dispose of any paint scrapings, chips into a container with a solid and secure seal and mark it as “Hazardous Waste”. Do not simply put this container out with garbage collection. Check with your local city municipality “City of Ottawa” on how to dispose hazardous waste materials. See the List of Dates and Locations in Ottawa to dispose of hazardous waste and special items.
  12. Using a damp cloth, wipe down the entire work area and then dispose of the cloth the same way as the hazardous waste procedure.

Thankfully our government began imposing stricter laws and regulations for both home builders and paint manufacturers. If your house was built after 1990 your home should have any lead-free paint, because all consumer paints produced in Canada and in the United States are since then virtually lead-free.
You can read more of the information and documents on our Canadian Health Canada Website regarding questions on contaminants and lead or you can find all information and paint fact sheets from Health Canada.
Other sources of information regarding lead-based paints
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation – Residential Sources of Lead Health Canada – Lead Paints and other information for your house Contact PG Paint & Design
To Hire a Professional House Painter in Ottawa for Interior or Exterior Painting Ottawa House Painters