Sanding outer (non-lead) paint, but inner layers might contain lead?
April 5, 2021 2:07 PM   Subscribe

I live in an old house, and I have some spots on my window trim where I've used wood filler to fill in small holes. I need to lightly sand down the wood filler so that I can touch up these small spots. I've confirmed that the outer layer of paint is not lead-based. However, I strongly suspect the layers underneath are lead based. My question is would I potentially be releasing lead dust by lightly sanding the small areas where the wood filler is located?
posted by boygeorge to Home & Garden (6 answers total)

Personally I wouldn't let the possibility of disturbing a small amount of lead paint stop me from sanding a few small areas; it's lead, not plutonium, and it's not like you're sanding back a whole wall.

I'd just take sensible precautions like gloving and masking up beforehand, doing the sanding with wet sandpaper so as to create mud instead of dust, wiping up the residue using a damp paper towel, and disposing of sandpaper, mask, gloves and paper towels inside a closed plastic bag.
posted by flabdablet at 2:29 PM on April 5 [13 favorites]

Yes. Get a good mask like this one that protects against lead. Sure, a little won't kill you, but these masks are relatively cheap.
posted by coffeecat at 4:12 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks - I definitely plan to take some precautions. I should add that I have a new little one in my life which prompts the concern. A previous me would have been pretty freewheeling in this situation. I'm hoping that with the very minimal number of spots being sanded and the fact the outer layer is lead-free (along with all the precautions) will help!
posted by boygeorge at 4:54 PM on April 5

I'd like to say that I attempted to paint over some lead paint when I had a little one on the way with bog-standard latex from the big box. Subsequent testing showed me that the lead had leached into the new latex paint. I then got some paint designed to "block" lead, which is what I should have bought to start off with.
posted by rudd135 at 6:18 PM on April 5

I recall assessing this (and determining that lower layers of my window frames had lead paint) by slicing a light X shape through the outer layers of paint with a utility knife and then using one of those cheap lead testing kits from Lowes. Possibly learned to do that on this very website. But that may be overkill for your situation.
posted by deludingmyself at 7:44 PM on April 6

OK it sounds like what you're doing is small. But given that you have a baby, I would really recommend you have a lead inspection done. Lead is very toxic to children and if you are going to be doing any repairs at all you should find out if this is an issue. I've met children who've been affected by lead and the neurological problems are not pretty. In some states there is financial assistance to homeowners who remediate but don't assume it'll be expensive - but you do want to know whether it's a risk or not before you go about doing anything. I don't know if your kid is mobile yet but once they are, they will totally eat any little bits of loose paint or whatever that's around. If you're worried, please hire an inspector.
posted by epanalepsis at 9:08 AM on April 7

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