Source: Environmental Protection Agency
As of April 22, 2010, federal law requires contractors that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities and schools, built before 1978 to be certified and follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination. Ask to see your contractor’s certification.
Renovating, Repairing, or Painting?
- Is your home, your building, or the child care facility or school your children attend, being renovated, repaired, or painted?
- Was your home, your building, or the child care facility your children under age 6 attend, built before 1978?
If the answer to these questions is YES, there are a few important things you need to know about lead-based paint.
The Facts About Lead
- Lead can affect children’s brains and developing nervous systems, causing reduced IQ, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems. Lead is also harmful to adults.
- Lead in dust is the most common way people are exposed to lead. People can also get lead in their bodies from lead in soil or paint chips. Lead dust is often invisible.
- Lead-based paint was used in more than 38 million homes until it was banned for residential use in 1978.
- Projects that disturb lead-based paint can create dust and endanger you and your family. Don’t let this happen to you. Follow the practices described in this pamphlet to protect you and your family.
Lead and Your Health
Lead is especially dangerous to children under 6 years of age. Even children who appear healthy can have dangerous levels of lead in their bodies. Lead is also harmful to adults. In adults, low levels of lead can pose many dangers, including:
- High blood pressure and hypertension
- Pregnant women exposed to lead can transfer lead to their fetus.
What should I do if I am concerned about my family’s exposure to lead?
- Call your local health department for advice on reducing and eliminating exposures to lead inside and outside in your home, child care facility or school.
- Always use lead-safe work practices when renovation or repair will disturb lead-based paint.
- A blood test is the only way to find out if you or a family member already has lead poisoning. Call your doctor or local health department to arrange for a blood test.
There are other things you can do to protect your family everyday.
- Regularly clean floors, window sills and other surfaces.
- Wash children’s hands, bottles, pacifiers and toys often.
- Make sure children eat a healthy, nutritious diet consistent with the USDA’s dietary guidelines, that helps protect children from the effects of lead.
- Wipe off shoes before entering a house.
Where Does the Lead Come From?
Dust is the main problem. The most common way to get lead in the body is from dust. Lead dust comes from deteriorating lead-based paint and lead-contaminated soil that gets tracked into your home. This dust may accumulate to unsafe levels. Then, normal hand-to-mouth activities, like playing and eating move that dust from surfaces like floors and window sills into the body.
Home renovation creates dust. Common renovation activities like sanding, cutting, and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips.
Proper work practices protect you from the dust. The key to protecting yourself and your family during a renovation, repair, or painting job is to use lead-safe work practices such as containing dust inside the work area, using dust-minimizing work methods, and conducting a careful cleanup, as described in this pamphlet.
Other sources of lead. Remember, lead can also come from outside soil, your water, or household items such as lead-glazed pottery and lead crystal.
Checking Your Home for Lead-Based Paint
Older homes, child care facilities, and schools are more likely to contain lead paint. Homes may be single-family homes or apartments. They may be private, government-assisted or public housing. Schools are preschools and kindergarten classrooms. They may be urban, suburban or rural.
You have the following options:
You may decide to assume your home, child care facility or school contains lead. Especially in older homes and buildings, you may simply want to assume lead-based paint is present and follow lead-safe work practices.
You or your contractor may also test for lead using a lead test kit. Test kits must be EPA approved and are available at hardware stores. They include detailed instructions on their use.
You can hire a certified professional to check for lead-based paint. These professionals are certified risk assessors or inspectors and can determine if your home has lead or lead hazards.
- A certified inspector or risk assessor can conduct an inspection telling you whether your home, or a portion of your home, has lead paint and where it is located. This will tell you the ares in your home where lead-safe work practices are needed.
- A certified risk assessor can conduct a risk assessment telling you if your home currently has any lead hazards from lead in paint, dust, or soil. The risk assessor can also tell you what actions to take to address any hazards.
For Property Owners
You have the ultimate responsibility for the safety of your family, tenants, or children in your care. This means properly preparing for the renovation and keeping persons out of the work area. It also means ensuring the contractor uses lead-safe work practices.
Make sure your contractor can explain clearly the details of the job and how the contractor will minimize lead hazards during the work.
- Ask if the contractor is trained to perform lead-safe work practices and to see a copy of their training certificate.
- Ask them what lead-safe methods they will use to set up and perform the job.
- Ask if the contractor is aware of the lead renovation rules. For example, contractors are required to provide you with a copy of this pamphlet before beginning work. A sample pre-renovation disclosure form is provided at the back of this pamphlet. Contractors may use this form to make documentation of compliance easier.
- Ask for references from at least three recent jobs involving homes built before 1978.
Always make sure the contract is clear about how the work will be set up, performed and cleaned.
- Share the results of any previous lead tests with the contractor.
- The contract should specify which parts of your home are part of the work area and specify which lead-safe work practices should be used in those areas. Remember, your contractor should confine dust and debris to the work area and should minimize spreading that dust to other areas of the home.
- The contract should also specify that the contractor clean the work area, verify that it was cleaned adequately, and re-clean it if necessary.
If you think a worker is failing to do what they are supposed to do or is doing something that is unsafe, you should:
- Direct the contractor to comply with the contract requirements,
- Call your local health or building department or
- Call EPA’s hotline 1-800-424-LEAD (5323)
Preparing for a Renovation
The work areas should not be accessible to occupants while the work occurs. The rooms or areas where the work is being done may be blocked off or sealed with plastic sheeting to contain any dust that is generated. The contained area will not be available to you until the owrk in that room or area is complete, cleaned thoroughly, and the containment has been removed. You will not have access to some areas and should plan accordingly.
You may need:
- Alternative bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen arrangements if work is occurring in those areas of your home.
- A safe place for pets because they, too, can be poisoned by lead and can track lead dust into other areas of the home.
- A separate pathway for the contractor from the work area to the outside, in order to bring materials in and out of the home. Ideally, it should not be through the same entrance that your family uses.
- A place to store your furniture. All furniture and belongings may have to be moved from the work area while the work is done. Items that can’t be moved, such as cabinets, should be wrapped in heavy duty plastic.
- To turn off forced-air heating and air conditioning systems while work is done. This prevents dust from spreading through vents from the work area to the rest of your home. Consider how this may affect your living arrangements.
You may even want to move out of your home temporarily while all or parts of the work are being done.
Child care facilities and schools may want to consider alternative accomodations for children and access to necessary facilities.
During the Work
Federal law requires contractors that are hired to perform renovation, repair and painting projects in homes, child care facilities, and school sbuilt before 1978 that disturb lead-based paint to be certified and follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.
1. Contain the work area. The area should be contained so that dust and debris do not escape form that area. Warning signs should be put up and heavy-duty plastic and tape should be used appropriately to:
- Cover the floors and any furniture that cannot be moved.
- Seal off doors and heating & cooling system vents.
These will help prevent dust or debris from getting outside the work area.
2. Minimize dust. There is no way to eliminate dust, but some methods make less dust than others. For example, using water to mist areas before sanding or scraping; scoring paint before separating components; and prying and pulling apart components instead of breaking them are techniques that generate less dust than alternatives. Some methods generate large amounts of lead-contaminated sut and should not be used. They are:
- Open flame burning or torching.
- Sanding, grinding, planing, need gunning, or blasting with power tools and equipment not equipped with a shroud and HEPA vacuum attachment.
- Using a heat gun at temperatures greater than 1100 F.
3. Clean up thoroughly. The work area should be cleaned up daily to keep it as clean as possible. When all the work is done, the area should be cleaned up using special cleaning methods before tkaing down any plastic that isolates the work area from the rest of the home. THe special cleaning methods should include:
- Using a HEPA vacuum to clean up dust and debris on all surfaces, followed by
- Wet mopping with plenty of rinse water.
When the final cleaning is done, look around. There should be no dust, paint chips, or debris in the work area. If you see any dust, paint chips or debris, the area should be re-cleaned.
For Property Owners: After the Work is Done
When all the work is finished, you will want to know if your home, child care facility or school has been cleaned up properly. Here are some ways to check.
Ask about your contractor’s final cleanup check. Remember, lead dust is often invisible to the naked eye. It may still be present even if you cannot see it. The contractor should use disposable cleaning cloths to wipe the floor of the work area and compare them to a cleaning verification card to determine if the work area was adequately cleaned.
You may choose to have a lead-dust test. Lead-dust tests are wipe samples sent to a laboratory for analysis.
- You can specify in your contract that a lead-dust test will be done. In this case, make it clear who will do the testing.
- Testing should be done by a lead professional.
If you choose to do the testing, some EPA-recognized lead laboratories will send you a kit that allows you to collect samples and send them back to the lab for analysis.
Contact the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-5323 for lists of qualified professionals and EPA-recognized labs.
If your home, child care facility, or school fails the dust test, the area should be re-cleaned and tested again.
Where the project is done by the contract, it is a good idea to specify in the contract that the contractor is responsible for re-cleaning if the home, child care facility or school fails the test.
For Additional Information
You may need additional information on how to protect yourself and your children while a job is going on in your home, your building, or child care facility.
The National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-5323 or www.epa.gov/lead/nlic.htm can tell you how to contact your state, local, and or tribal programs or get general information about lead poisoning prevention.
- State and tribal lead poisoning prevention or environmental protection programs can provide information about lead regulations and potential sources of financial aid for reducing lead hazards. If your State or local government has requirements more stringent than those described in this pamphlet, you must follow those requirements.
- Local building code officials can tell you the regulations that apply to the renovation work that you are planning.
- State, county and local health departments can provide information about local programs, including assistance for lead-poisoned children and advice on ways to get your home checked for lead.
The National Lead Information Center can also provide a variety of resource materials, including the following guides to lead-safe work practices.
- Lead Paint Safety, a Field Guide for Painting, Home Maintenance, and Renovation Work
- Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home
- Lead in Your Home: A Parent’s Reference Guide