Renovate the Home in Lead-Safe Way

Homes that were built prior to 1978 may have the presence of lead. Homeowners thinking about home improvement renovations may want to consider taking extra safety precautions to prevent lead contamination.

Consumption of lead can result in many health problems, affecting the nervous system and kidneys and possibly interfering with fertility and reproduction. High doses of lead can cause mental retardation, behavior problems, brain damage, and even death.

Older homes may contain a good deal of lead. Lead used to be added to paint to make the product last longer and flow easier. Water pipes used to be made from lead, as was the solder used to connect the pipes. Lead may even be in the soil surrounding the home.

Because of the dangers lead presents, many homeowners are interested in retrofitting their homes to remove traces of old lead, or at least prevent future contamination. Homeowners who are just doing minor renovations may actually stir up lead and introduce it into the environment. That is why caution must be taken with older homes.

Whether one is hiring a contractor for renovations or doing the work him- or herself, a lead-safe manner should be followed.

* Cover entryways, venting, ductwork, flooring and other items in the room with an impermeable covering to prevent the release of lead dust outside of the work area.

* Use wet-scraping and wet-sanding methods to minimize the amount of dust generated that could contain lead.

* Make sure tools, personnel and other equipment are cleaned before exiting the room so that dust is not spread.

* Use containers to securely store waste and debris so it can safely be removed from the house.

* Follow applicable laws for the proper disposal of lead-containing materials.

* Use HEPA-equipped vacuums to remove dust in a final clean-up of the work area. Wash down areas with water and an all-purpose cleaner so that settled dust is removed.

* Be sure all workers are wearing appropriate safety equipment, such as ventilators, masks, gloves and eyewear for protection.

* Hire a lead professional to do testing in the home to make sure lead is not present. Consumers can buy a do-it-yourself kit to test for lead-based paints in their homes. However, there may be false test results. Therefore, hiring a professional tester is the best option.

* The Environmental Protection Agency requires that firms performing renovation in pre-1978 buildings use certified renovators for lead-safe work. Individuals can become certified renovators by taking an eight-hour training course from an EPA-approved training provider.

What You Should Know About Lead-Based Paint

Lead-based paint is particularly dangerous because older paint can chip and deteriorate, causing lead dust in the home. Children may eat lead paint chips, and residents may inhale the dust.

Actions should be taken to protect homeowners from lead-based paints in older homes.

* Painted items, such as doors, can be replaced. If a lot of debris will be generated, consult a professional.

* Covering up lead-based paint is a short-term solution. Sealants or gypsum wallboard can cover the paint. However, the old paint may continue to chip. Painting over the old paint may temporarily lock in the lead, but once the new paint deteriorates, lead dust may be released.

* Removal is the best option. Professionals experienced in lead paint removal can do it safely. Homeowners should not try to remove a large area of lead-based paint on their own.