Here's the Deal With Lead Paint

Once you’re approved for an apartment in NYC you’ll have to fill out quite a bit of a paperwork and amongst that pile of documents, there will usually be a notice you’ll have to sign about lead-based paint. For many, this might be your first time hearing about such an outdated paint but for those who have lived in older buildings frequently, it’s simply routine. So—is there a need to worry?

Probably not. Lead-based paint is any paint that contained the highly toxic metal which occurs naturally in the environment. For centuries, it was included in everything from wine goblets, to wall paper, to pencils, and yes, paint. By 1960, the use of lead-based paints was banned in New York City but the ban didn’t require the removal of the paint unless it was peeling and damaged (and for good reason too—more on that in our next blog post.) This means that while it’s highly unlikely your apartment was coated using lead-paint recently, under many, many, layers of paint, it may still exist. Don’t panic though, it typically doesn’t cause problems.

Lead paint is most dangerous when it becomes airborne (for example, if you try sanding it) or if it’s ingested (by eating chipping paint or paint particles.) Chances are, there’s over 40 years of paint layers between you and any lead paint in your apartment. Nonetheless, The City takes the lead paint law very seriously, and most landlords will have you sign an acknowledgment stating there may be lead paint in the apartment. You can read more about NYC’s Lead Paint Law here.

So, unless you’re planning to munch on some old paint chips, or you decide to take sandpaper to your walls, lead paint in your apartment is mostly harmless. If you do have concerns (for example of there is peeling or chipping paint, or if you have a child under the age of 6) there are a plethora of lead-paint testing kits all over the internet like this one. If test results come back positive, contact your landlord—they’re required to take care of it by law. If they don’t—you can file a complaint with the NYC City Hall online here