Lead paint is a serious problem that many owners of older houses might have to deal with. Lead was used to add color to paint, to make it water resistant, dry faster and more durable.

In 1978 this practice was discontinued, since high levels of lead in your body can cause convulsions, coma and even death. Even at low levels, lead in your system can be very damaging. It can damage your nervous system, brain, kidneys and blood cells.

If children are exposed to lead, they could suffer lifelong side-effects.

One way to find out if you have lead paint is to look at how it flakes. Lead paint will flake somewhat like alligator skin. Pipes that are made from lead can be recognized from their dull gray color. Lead pipes also will scratch easily with a metal object.

Do not try to clean up lead paint on your own, since you risk releasing a fine lead dust in the air when sanding down the old paint.

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