LEAD-BASED paint was used to decorate British homes up until 1992, the highest concentration occurring in gloss paint between 1930 and 1955. Most older properties therefore contain large amounts of lead paint, which is now known to be a dangerous neurotoxin, affecting children's intelligence and causing disruptive and delinquent behaviour.

1. Before you start redecorating, test surfaces with a Lead Test kit from McDougall Rose decorators' suppliers (pounds 14.99 for 20 tests) or a Lead Check kit from B&Q (pounds 2.89 for two tests). It is important to scratch through the surface of recent paint to expose older layers underneath.

2. Families with young children should never dry-sand, power-sand or burn off old lead paint - inhalation of dust and fumes is the most likely route for lead poisoning. Young children and pregnant women should be kept away when old gloss paintwork is being prepared for repainting.

3. If you want to remove lead paint from your home, use a chemical paint stripper such as Nitromors. Low-temperature hot-air guns and wet abrasives can also be used with caution, but are best left to professionals.

4. The safest option is to seal old painted surfaces by over-painting, but these surfaces should then be labelled to warn

future occupiers of the presence of lead paint below the surface.

5. In older homes, house dust can also consist of a high proportion of lead from degrading paint surfaces. The dust should be regularly removed from the house by thorough vacuum cleaning and wet scrubbing.

6. For advice leaflets on removing lead paint send an SAE to the British Coatings Federation, James House, Bridge Street, Leatherhead, Surrey KT22 7EP.