Many painted surfaces produced prior to 1978 contained lead and cadmium, toxic materials associated with attention deficit, decreased IQ scores, learning disabilities and hyperactivity in children.  Testing for the presence of lead before beginning any work in an older building is essential.  Furnishings or woodwork coated with lead-based paint should be removed from the area.  Walls painted with lead based paint may be re-plastered or thoroughly coated with a water based low VOC lead paint sealant.   

Even “Latex” paint which is considered a safe alternative by most contains some detrimental compounds.  Low or no VOC paints are readily available from many large paint companies.  It is extremely important to carefully ventilate newly painted areas-preferably with large fans placed in an open window to exhaust fumes since VOC’s can cling to fabric and carpeting.  Out gassing is at it’s highest during the first four days after painting with smaller amounts emitted over time.  In fact, VOC’s can be as much as 1,000 times higher immediately after a new coat of paint is applied.  Avoid using recycled paint for interior surfaces; it is likely that the paint obtained from such centers has a high chemical content.

Painted Surfaces

By:  Melissa W. Cooper

Interior and Architectural Design in Connecticut and New York