The Problem with Lead Paint
Back before the lead was determined to have highly adverse health effects, it was added to paint for a variety of reasons. The lead was used as a pigment to create specific colors of paint, to decrease the time it took for paint to dry – which was helpful with large-scale domestic painting – and to make the paint more durable, long-lasting, and resistant to moisture. Paint-makers and professional painters probably figured using lead in paint was safe because they didn’t imagine people eating the paint off the walls. But they failed to think about what happens when the paint gets old and begins to crack and peel, falling in chips and pieces to the floor where children are wont to put just about anything they find into their mouths. Unfortunately, quite a few children suffered from this mistake, contracting learning disabilities, internal organs, and brain damage, as well as behavioral problems. Adults suffered too, after breathing in lead paint dust, as high levels of lead poisoning can cause seizures, unconsciousness, and death.
Lead was originally included in paint because it acted as a pigment to create desired colors. It also decreased the time for the paint to dry and made the paint more durable and weather-resistant. Unfortunately, whoever made paint in the early and mid-20th century didn’t think about the potential hazards of using a toxic heavy metal in household applications. Or perhaps they knew about it and lacked the ethics to not include it from paint. Either way, in 1978 the EPA banned the use of lead in paint; though many homes built before that time still contain this toxic substance.