Lead-based Paint Awareness

What is lead-based paint?

Lead was a major ingredient in many types of paint until the late 1940s. In the early 1950s, other pigment materials became more popular; however, lead compounds were still used in some pigments and as drying agents. EPA defines lead-based paint (LBP) as paint containing greater than 0.5% or 5,000 parts per million (ppm) by weight. Federal regulations lowered the permissible lead content in dry paint film to 0.5% in 1973 and again in 1978 to 0.06%. Because of the potential for widespread use at UNM, we must expect that any building constructed earlier than 1978 may contain LBP.

Health Hazard Information: 

Lead may be absorbed into the body by ingestion (eating) and inhalation (breathing). Children have suffered from lead poisoning by eating lead-based paint flakes, making it essential to encapsulate or remove damaged lead-based paint in housing with small children. Lead is a "cumulative" toxin, making acceptable personal hygiene practices very important since ingestion is the primary entry route. Hands must be washed before eating, drinking, smoking, or applying cosmetics. Chronic adverse health effects are:

  • Decreased hemoglobin (oxygen-carrying material in the blood), anorexia, and anemia.
  • Fatigue, dullness, memory loss, and possible seizures
  • Possible kidney damage with progression to kidney dialysis
  • Decreased sex drive and potential risk of congenital disabilities.


Construction and maintenance workers must be provided with lead awareness training before assignment to work in an area with lead-based paint. If personal monitoring discloses potential exposure above the OSHA action level of 30 micrograms per cubic meter of air (30 ug/m3), then extensive training must be provided per 29 CFR 1926.62(l)(1)(ii).


Floors and other surfaces where lead-based paint debris may accumulate should be cleaned by vacuuming or other methods that minimize the likelihood of the paint dust or debris becoming airborne.

Hand Washing Facilities:

Such facilities should be in proximity to the worksite and should be so equipped to enable employees to remove contamination from their hands and faces before eating, drinking, smoking, or applying cosmetics. This practice will minimize the risk of exposure to lead in paint debris or dust by ingestion.

For information about controlling lead hazards during renovations and maintenance, please check out our Control of Lead Hazards for Renovation and Maintenance Program.