Lead is a dangerous poison. Widely used in the paint and plumbing pipes of residential homes until 1978, lead poisoning remains one of the most serious residential health risks. Lead was also used in gasoline until 1996. Depending on how near your home is located toward major roads, your soil may contain lead. Lead pipes have poisoned millions over the years, beginning during the late Roman Empire.
Lead poisoning causes a wide range of health problems, including reproductive dysfunction, decreased IQ, and nerve damage. Lead can cause impaired mental and physical development, hearing damage, attention deficit disorder, and behavior problems in both children and adults.
Children are at high risk because their growing tissues absorb lead more readily than adult tissue. Young children are more likely to ingest lead because of hand-mouth contact and the sweet taste of lead-paint chips.
Though lead paint is the most common household lead source, hazardous quantities of lead can often be found in tap water and the soil around a home.
Standards for Blood Lead Levels: Children: 10 µg/dL. Adults: 25 µg/dL.
Managing Sources Lead Paint
Homeowners, weatherization professionals, and contractors should work together to reduce the risks of household lead exposure. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires contractors to attend training on lead safety before disturbing lead paint in pre-1978 homes.
Some home-improvement tasks must be left to certified professionals, but homeowners and renters can greatly reduce the hazards of lead poisoning in pre-1978 homes by following these EPA guidelines:
- Notify landlords of peeling or chipping paint.
- Clean floors, window frames, window sills, and other surfaces regularly to remove all accumulated lead dust.
- Clean up paint chips immediately.
- Thoroughly rinse sponges and mops. Wash your hands after cleaning dusty surfaces.
- Wash children’s hands often, especially before they eat or sleep.
- Wash children’s bottles, pacifiers, and toys regularly.
- Clean or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from the soil.
- Test your home’s paint with an EPA-approved lead paint test if you live in a pre-1978 home.
The EPA, Contractors, and the Home
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has strict rules about home improvements in pre-1978 homes. Contractors may either test for lead paint or assume that the home has lead paint. Contractors must comply with rigorous dust-control rules if their work disturbs lead paint according to the Repair, Renovation, and Painting Rule (EPA RRP). Whenever contractors disturb 6 square feet of an indoor surface or 20 square feet of surface outdoors, they must comply with EPA lead-paint regulations.
Dust-control is always necessary during home improvement projects to protect the lungs of both workers and residents. With lead dust, contractors must take dust control to a very high standard of control and cleanliness according to the EPA RRP.
Every pre-1978 weatherization or renovation job must be supervised by an EPA-certified renovator when workers disturb more than a specified painted surface area or when they disturb paint on windows.
Here are some of the most important EPA repair, Renovation, and Painting Rule (EPA RRP) rules.
- Renovation firms must register with the EPA and employ one or more certified renovators.
- Signs and barriers must warn occupants and passersby not to enter the work area.
- Floor-to-ceiling dust-tight barriers must prevent the spread of dust from the work area.
- Plastic sheeting must protect surfaces and fixtures within the work area.
- Workers must not track dust from the work area into the home.
- Workers must clean work surfaces sufficiently to pass an EPA-approved dust-wipe test, conducted by the certified renovator.
When peeling lead paint threatens children, property owners may be required to remove the lead paint through lead abatement, which is also regulated by the EPA under even stricter regulations. Technicians and their supervisors receive special training to perform lead abatement correctly according to demanding EPA rules.
Evaluating Lead In Tap Water
If you suspect that local tap water contains lead, suggest a water analysis by a certified laboratory. Council your client not to trust companies giving a free analysis in order to sell a water-treatment system. The local county health department or state department of environmental protection can suggest reputable local commercial laboratories or perform the lead test for the home.
Tap Water Lead Standard: The PEL for lead in tap water is 15 µg/m.
Saturn offers an introduction to the EPA RRP in our Lead Safety Overview Course
Here is the the official EPA RRP Manual at the EPA RRP website