Lead poisoning is a serious problem that can lead to adverse health problems. In children, high levels of lead can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, behavioral and learning problems, slow growth, and hearing problems. In adults, lead poisoning can cause reproductive problems, high blood pressure, digestive problems, nerve disorder, memory and concentration problems, and muscle and joint pain.
Federal law requires that sellers disclose known information on lead-based paint hazards before selling a house. Sales contracts must include a federal form about lead-based paint in the building. Buyers will have up to 10 days to check for lead hazards and are likely to stipulate corrections.
Lead poisoning is especially a problem in cities and towns with older buildings. Many homes built before 1978, especially homes built before 1950 can have lead paint. If you are considering purchasing a historic home in Evanston, Wilmette, Winnetka, Kenilworth or any other place on the North Shore, be aware that lead is likely present and budget accordingly.
Chipping and peeling paint, especially on wood trim is more likely to contain lead than wall paint. Lead paint present on windows is even more concerning as it is nearly impossible to remove and particles of the old lead paint can get airborne and breathed into the lungs. If buying and older home, budget for new windows, especially if you have children in the home as lead can impair a child's development.
Lead can also be present in pipes, but this is uncommon. If you are purchasing an older home, have the inspector check for lead pipes or consider getting the home's water tested.