LA CROSSE, Wis. -

As construction and remodeling projects ramp up in the warmer months, how do people know if the contractor working on their home is keeping them safe from the dangers of lead paint?

More than 75 percent of the homes in the La Crosse area were built before 1978. Those homes have a very good chance of containing lead-based paint.

The La Crosse County Health Department receives a handful of complaints every year about improper paint removal and the concerns with lead.

They said knowing what to look for can protect your health and save you time.

It shouldn't be there, but it’s hidden all over the yard of one home in La Crosse.

“Here's where things really look dicey,” said Jim Steinhoff of the La Crosse County Health Department as he looked around the residence.

Steinhoff is testing some of the millions of paint chips scattered around the residence for lead.

“If there's lead present, it will turn bright pink or red,” said Steinhoff.

The owner didn't want to go on camera, but told News 8 he hired a contractor to repaint the roof. The contractor power washed the roof, and that's when he said paint chips flew everywhere.

“This happens all too often where contractors just blast the paint, and it can spread throughout the neighborhood,” said Steinhoff.

The house was built in the 1900s. Steinhoff said he’s almost positive it could contain some lead-based paint.

Exposure to the lead could be dangerous, especially for children.

Steinhoff said it could cause behavioral issues, affect a child's I-Q and has been linked to attention deficit disorder.

The owner said he didn't know if the contractor was lead certified.

“They actually have a photo ID that says that they've been lead certified,” said Miles Wilkins, owner of the Board Store in La Crosse.

All of the contractors at the Board Store are lead certified.

Along with the state issued ID, Wilkins said they also have to give owners a pamphlet explaining the dangers of lead and the steps contractors will take to keep everyone safe.

Owners have to sign off on it.

“If someone hasn't given them that, they should be suspicious,” said Wilkins.
“The coloring is turning a pinkish color,” said Steinhoff as he tested a paint chip.
Steinhoff said when in doubt, homeowners should just ask.

“I would ask them to present the documents showing that they went through the proper lead training,” said Steinhoff.

Some of the paint chips taken from the residence have been sent to the state lab in Madison for further testing.

The results should come back in about a week.

If the chips test positive for lead, the contractor may be ordered by the state to get the yard cleaned up by a professional certified person.

The Wisconsin Department of Health’s website has a list of companies certified in lead training.