Q. My family and I live in an old house. Should I be worried about lead paint?

A. If your house was built after 1978, you don’t need to lose sleep over thoughts of lead lurking on your walls. That's because the heavy metal was no longer used as an ingredient in household paint after that year. But the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 87 percent of houses built before 1940 contain lead paint. And though the developing nervous systems of children are more susceptible to damage, you should also exercise caution around lead because it has been linked to heart problems in adults.

More on Lead Paint

Lead in paint doesn't pose a direct danger unless it's deteriorating, or will be scraped or sanded. If you're planning to hire a painting contractor, a 2008 EPA rule requires that they be certified in lead-safe work practices. Ask to see their accreditation and what steps they plan to take.

Plan to do it yourself? You can test for lead with an EPA-recognized lead-paint test kit, available at home centers. There are two on the market: 3M LeadCheck Swabs and ESCA Tech’s D-Lead.

"Both are 95 percent accurate when used properly, according to the EPA," says Michael Hansen, Ph.D., senior scientist at CR.

Watch our video step-by-step guide to getting accurate results from the LeadCheck and D-Lead test kits. Or visit the EPA website to find a professional certified to check your home for lead hazards.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the January 2018 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.