Lead-based paint was used extensively in homes and buildings prior to the 1970s, but today it's known that it can have harmful effects on health. Lead poisoning can cause serious health problems, including gastrointestinal problems, reproductive problems, kidney damage, and nervous system damage. Children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable to the effects of lead poisoning.

While current real estate laws require sellers to disclose the presence of lead paint in any home built before 1978, some sellers simply do not know. For example, a home sold through probate court is typically owned by a seller who recently inherited the house and has no idea of its condition. Likewise, a foreclosure is a bank-owned home, and, as such, there is no knowledge of lead-based paint usage or previous removal.

Furthermore, the recent seller's market has resulted in many home buyers waiving their right to an inspection, which would have flagged the potential use of lead-based paint as well as other abnormalities.

If you find yourself in a similar position and are wondering if you should get the property tested for lead, here's what you need to know about lead testing and lead hazard cleanup.

What Is Lead Testing?

Lead testing is the process of testing for the presence of lead in a home. Lead can be found in many different places in a home, including pipes, plumbing fixtures, and, most commonly, paint. Lead is found in homes built before 1978 when lead was still used in paint and other construction materials.

What Do You Do If a House Tests Positive for Lead?

If a house tests positive for lead, it must be removed by a licensed professional. Like asbestos and mold, lead paint removal is a serious business. While buying a fixer-upper is a great way to build sweat equity, lead-based paint is not the place to start.

In fact, there are very strict Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines that must be followed regarding the removal and disposal of lead-based products during a lead hazard cleanup. This is because microscopic debris can become airborne and make nearby people ill if the lead-based paint is not removed properly.

If you have not yet purchased the home in question, it is the seller's responsibility to have the lead paint removed before transferring the title to you.

Lead poisoning is a serious health hazard and should not be taken lightly. It's important to have lead testing and proper lead hazard cleanup if you suspect the use of lead paint in your older home.