If you're repainting a room in your pre-1970s home and find yourself unsure about the origins (or composition) of some paint you've discovered a few layers below the surface, you may wonder whether you've just run into an expensive remediation project rather than a remodeling one. With the dangers of lead ingestion at the top of headlines due to the crisis unfolding in Michigan, the prospect of having what is essentially a lead-lined room in your home could be  On the other hand, you could be reluctant to enlist professional help on what was meant to be a small project and may be tempted to simply repaint over the supposed lead paint. Read on to learn more about lead paint to determine whether removal is something you can (or should) do yourself.

What dangers are posed by lead paint? 

Lead-based paint is like asbestos-based insulation in a number of ways. Just as asbestos was heralded for its flame-retardant qualities, making it ideal as a component for normally flammable insulation, paint pigmented with lead was cheaper to manufacture and more durable than most of the other options on the market. However, when asbestos or lead particles are inhaled or ingested (usually through the demolition process), they can cause severe harm or even death. 

Lead paint is particularly harmful to children and pregnant women, as high blood lead levels can lead to irreparable cognitive impairment. Children who consume lead (often by eating paint chips or chewing on toys that are coated in lead-based paint) can also suffer kidney damage and other organ problems. 

Should you remove lead paint yourself? 

Because lead paint becomes much more dangerous during the removal or demolition process than it is at any other point due to the dust and other waste created, lead-based paint removal or remediation should generally be handled by a professional. If you're planning to tackle this yourself, you'll need to invest in some heavy-duty protective equipment for you and your belongings before getting down to business. Failing to adhere to the regulations put forth by federal and state governments could have disastrous consequences.

Often, unless you're planning to remove a non-load-bearing wall or otherwise change the footprint of your home, thereby requiring you to disturb the paint, the safest and least expensive option is simply to "encapsulate" the lead paint by applying a protective layer of material and painting over it. Although this doesn't remove the lead paint from your home, it ensures that no dust or paint chips can make their way out to your living area -- and until a less-invasive way to remove lead paint is developed, "out of sight, out of mind" may be the safest way to approach the situation.

For more information, contact a company like Colfax Corporation.