As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, lead-based paint is a hazardous substance that can cause permanent damage to those who are poisoned by it. Lead-based paint is any paint that contains lead equal to or in excess of 1.0 milligram per square centimeter or more than 0.5 percent by weight.
The main problem with lead-based paint is the dust produced when it is disturbed. You can’t see it or sweep it and once released it is easily tracked around. Because of this, home renovations pose a particular problem.
So what can be done to combat this issue, considering the large number of homes that are known to have lead-based paint?
First, realize that if you aren’t disturbing the paint and creating dust or chips, you may not need to do anything — undisturbed, lead-based paint doesn’t typically cause an issue. However, pay special attention to window sills and sashes as opening and closing old windows can create both. Second, if you are doing any renovation work to your pre-1978-built house that will disturb the paint, you’ll want to know whether that area of the house contains lead-based paint. There are several EPA-recognized lead paint test kits available at hardware stores. Follow the instructions carefully and test each area wherethe paint will be disturbed. The other option is to assume the home contains lead-based paint and proceed accordingly.
If you are performing renovation work on your own home, you are not required to be lead-paint certified. However, you will want to complete the work in a lead-safe manner. If you are paying a contractor to perform the work, the firm must be ‘lead-paint certified’ and a ‘lead-paint-certified renovator’ must conduct or supervise the work.
For details about how to conduct your own renovation work in a lead-safe manner, go to page 11 of the EPA’s handbook. The handbook will provide detailed information about how to prepare the area to be renovated, what precautions and practices to undertake, and how to clean and inspect the area after the work has been completed to ensure there isn’t dust, debris, or residue present.