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Question DetailsAsked on 2/22/2014

why was lead based paint used?

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6 Answers


Lots of reasons - lead hydrate (white lead, or hydrocerrusite in the raw mineral form) was naturally found in several places in the Mediterranean where it was first used in and probably before the 4th century BC. It was easy to make from mined lead, ground up easily to mix with oil to make paint, mixes freely with other pigments and solvents, bonded better to wood than other available finishes, was washable and retained its bright white color without fading, is highly fungal resistant, was only about a tenth as permeable to moisture as other paints, dried quicker and smoother, and resists cracking and peeling. Generally, was the best type of paint for a long-term durable finish up till the 1980's or so when reliable epoxies came out, and is still used for non-residential uses where wear resistance and long life are needed, like some boat and industrial paint uses and pavement markings for example. It was (and still is) also used for oil painting by artists as the only pure white pigment - ceruse. White lead was also commonly used (and still is in parts of the world) as a bearing lubricant, and was used in medicines and cosmetics until about 20 years ago.

Yellow lead (chrome containing) was and is used to provide bright yellow pigmentation in industrial paints, and Red lead (lead oxide) was commonly used to provide orange and red pigments, and until a decade or so ago was the standard anti-fouling paint for ships below the waterline, as it was the only product that effectively retarded barnacle and other marine growths on ship bottoms. That is why almost all ships had red hulls below the plimsoll line - the maximum loading line.

Up till the 1978 banning of lead paint in homes as a result of studies from the late 50's through mid 70's into child health issues resulting from eating paint, white lead based paint was THE paint of choice by professional painters because it FAR outperformed the other alternatives.

Contrary to a lot of the misinformation and alarmist presentation by the press, lead based paint is not a significant health hazard unless it is ingested or breathed in in quantity as a result of sanding - which is why encapsulation in other scratch and peel resistant finishes is allowed as a remedial solution, as an alternative to removal. In fact, in a residential environment, removal of lead paint from the surface (as opposed to removing the entire surface by removing drywalll or wood) has been shown to commonly be, under normal field working conditions, more dangerous than leaving it in place and painting over it.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


As LCD said the problem with lead as said by many experts is over stated. The most cases of lead poisoning are from inner city areas where kids are manurished and they tend to eat the paint chips as they are sweet to the palate. In it's day lead paint did cover better than any other option and I can remember covering a white with a darker green color in one coat in a rental unit I was living in, it should have been two ore more coats of paint to do that. If you are over 6 years of age I would not be too worried about it's effects.


Answered 6 years ago by ContractorDon


+1 to the previous commenters.

The hazards are overstated in my opinion as well.

Lead was used in paint because it worked. As long as the paint is in decent shape and you manage the dust and keep it clean, the exposure risk is almost non-existent.

Answered 6 years ago by WoWHomeSolutions


Stuff was awesome back in the day. Gloss improver, hardener, great paint. Used more often in the higher end homes. It was more expensive.

Answered 6 years ago by Davidhughes


Many Remodeling associations are going to court to try to repeal many of the the restrictions. It does seeem to be an inner city problem as I stated before and even some of the remodeling associations are getting together to fight some of the restrictions. For doing a simple window replacement you have to seal off the whole area and even throw away the existing mouldings which was always a thing I tried to do to maintain the looks of the original windows. Yes our government oversight has it's place but at a certain point it is overkill. I heard a joke a number of years ago and I will shorten it. The government conducted a study about the harmful effects of water and after forcing rats to comsume 5 gallons of water they exploded, so water is bad for you. Everthing you use in life if taken out of the normal use could harm you and worring about it is the most harmfull of all!

Answered 6 years ago by ContractorDon


We did say not as much of a problem as made out to be - however, there are a few critical areas where it has proven to be a consistent problem in child poisoning. Obviously, teething or very hungry children are among the most at risk, as are obsessive chewers and babies/youngsters who are of the type who "explore" their envionment with their mouth and teeth more than their hands:

1) child cribs and playpens and child gates, where a kid will stand and gnaw on the wood

2) window ledges and sills - again with the gnawing

3) painted wood floors and decks/balaconies, where wear releases lead powder which the kid (or pets) then gets on hands/paws crawling, then licks off because it tastes "good" - sort of a lightly sweet, creamy taste like vanilla pudding

4) door frames, from pets gnawing when locked in a room

5) railings and ballistrades, both indoor and porch/balcony

6) cabinet doors, where babies open them to explore the cabient, then end up gnawing on the edge of the door while it is open

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

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