Lead, the metal, mixed with paint made the paint last longer, so it was considered a premium paint. What wasn’t known, was that lead is a potent neurotoxin (poison). The body doesn’t sense the danger when lead is introduced. In fact, the body sees it as calcium and spreads it throughout the body and into the bones. This is why even after all these years, lead paint is the number 1 environmental concern for children.
In the early days, a painter could purchase a can of white lead and then mix it in the paint. Some painters added a lot of lead, while other painters only added a little. Later on, the paint companies got into the act and began mixing lead in paint and selling it over the counter. Everything was fine, until the paint began to peel and crack. House painters would scrape, torch or sand the paint to prepare the surface for a new coat of paint. Depending on the content of lead in the paint, the painters would come down with the flu (actually lead poisoning), develop disabilities or even die. Even today, painters get lead poisoned if the don’t take precautions.
We’ve seen microscopic lead dust from scraping and/or sanding enter the house through closed windows and exterior doors and land on furniture, window sills and flooring. Along comes a child who gets it on their hands and then puts their finger in their mouth and lead poisoning occurs. The situation has gotten so bad, that the federal government had to create a law. This law, called the Renovation, Repair and Painting rule mandates that any contractor disturbing a painted or coated surface, must take precautions and become a Lead Safe Contractor.