Even though the dangers of lead paint were exposed in the 1960s, the use of lead-based paint did not completely fall out of favour in New Zealand until around 1980. This means that if your property was built before this time there is a high chance that this toxic substance will still be lurking in the interior or exterior of the house. As a landlord, regulations in fact stipulate that this should be your assumption if your property was built before 1980, unless you have records or test results that prove otherwise.
Is lead really that bad for us? The simple answer is ‘yes’. Although modern paints can still contain traces of the element, they only do so in such negligible quantities that there is nothing to worry about. However, the levels of lead that were present in older paints were high enough to pose a very serious danger to human and animal health. Unfortunately, this threat does not go anywhere with the passage of time. If it’s still on your walls, it’s still a problem. Even if it is covered over with modern, safe layer of paint, if this deteriorates or is damaged then it will expose the danger lying beneath.
The most at risk are young children and unborn babies, as the nastiest side effects are those that damage the developing brain and central nervous system. However, even teenagers, adults and pets can all suffer from a wide range of unpleasant symptoms associated with lead poisoning, so act fast and act now. If you plan on removing the paint yourself, be aware that it is a dangerous job and follow stringent safety guidelines. Landlords have a responsibility to ensure the problem is eliminated, isolated or minimised by a competent individual who is aware of the problem, so it is advisable to hire an experienced contractor to carry out the work for you.