If you live in a house constructed before 1978, there’s a good chance it poses a health risk to you and your family. 1978 was only a few decades ago, and it marked the year that the Government finally banned the use of lead paint in homes. Evidence had been around for centuries that lead poisoning damaged the human body, but the United States took years to act, which means the majority of American homes contain some traces of the harmful element. Old, dangerous layers of paint are often buried underneath new coats of safe paint. Lead might be hidden, but it’s often still present, so before you undergo major remodeling, choose a lead-safe remodeling specialist. If it’s in your walls, it’ll come out during construction, and that’s a contamination only a professional should combat.

Because it’s so malleable, lead was one of the first metals humans began to smelt and use. For millennia cultures turned it into weapons, art, and even dinnerware. In many Roman societies, the wealthiest citizens lined their wine cups with lead. The acidity of the grapes would eat away at the metal, and people absorbed it so quickly that plebs were famous for outliving patricians. That terrifying trend has only continued throughout history. Benjamin Franklin noted that printers lost control of their extremities after years of working around lead vapors; African provinces that have been exposed to massive lead pollution grow no vegetation and have horrific life expectancy rates. The EPA banned lead in homes, but it wasn’t an act of environmental propaganda. It was the reaction to endless dangers that lead has posed, which is why major remodeling in older houses continues to pose health risks.

Because it’s a metal, lead doesn’t evaporate and disseminate into the air. It’s a heavy, stationary element, and when it’s buried under layers of paint, it can’t enter your body or contaminate your food. Any major remodeling, though, upsets those layers and usually creates dust. It’s lead dust that causes poisoning. All dust naturally circulates through a home, and when it does it can cling to food, water, and even skin. A lead-safe remodeling specialist will know how to isolate and remove any lead dust before it affects you or your family.

Hiring a lead-safe remodeling specialist is good advice for anyone, but it’s critical if you’re a parent or grandparent. The dangers of lead are very severe and very real for everyone and especially children. Because their bodies are developing and growing, children face the greatest risk and long-term complications from lead poisoning. It can attack all parts of the body, but organs and brain development are usually the most affected. Depending on a child’s age, too, he’ll naturally be in more danger for touching, tasting, and crawling through a home more than adults would. When major remodeling unleashes a hidden poison, if a remodeling specialist isn’t present to contain the lead, it can enter all parts of a home and harm your most precious possessions: your family.