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Science Notebook

Detecting Lead Paint in Homes

Lead Poisoning?

The Spanish painter Francisco Goya became deaf after an acute illness. Vincent van Gogh experienced weakness, abdominal pain, and delirium. The Brazilian painter Candido Portinari suffered from a decade-long illness followed by a stroke.

We can't know for sure, but scientists speculate that all three painters–living in three different centuries–may have been poisoned by the lead in the paints they used.

Portinari (1903-1962) Girl Combing her HairVan Gogh (1853-1890), Self Portrait with Bandaged Goya (1746-1828), Deaf Man

There’s no doubt, though, that lead paint in homes has damaged people’s health. To help end lead paint poisoning, EPA has teamed with other agencies and the private sector to develop better methods of detecting lead paint in homes. Click on the slide show to learn more.

Meet the Project Leader

Maggie TherouxName: Maggie Theroux
Job title: Innovative Technology Specialist
Location: Region 1, Boston, MA

(Running time = 3:34

View Audio Transcript

Test Your Knowledge


1) True or False: Lead poisoning is pretty much a think of the past.

Answer: False. According to the CDC about 250,000 U.S. children aged 1-5 years have blood lead levels greater than 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, the level at which CDC recommends public health action be initiated.

2) True or False: The main way children get lead poisoning is by eating chips of lead paint.

Answer: False. Dust is the most common way children are exposed to lead-based pain hazards. Dust is formed during normal paint wear or when lead based paint is dry scraped, dry sanded or heated.

3) True or False: Lead is more dangerous to children than adults?

Answer: True. Lead is more dangerous to children because (1) Babies are young and often put their hands and other objects in their mouths. These objects can have lead dust on them. (2) Children's growing bodies absorb more lead. (3) Children's brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.

4) How many homes in the United States are at risk for lead-based paint hazards? (2 million, 24 million, 6.5 million, 48 million)

Answer: 48 million. The older the home, the greater the chance it contains lead-based paint and lead-based hazards.

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