There’s no way to make light of this-lead is lethal. Lead, a toxic metal, causes serious health issues. In adults, this can range from high blood pressure and hypertension to nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems, muscle and joint pain, even reproductive problems in both men and women. Children six years old and under are most at risk because children’s brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Lead exposure can even harm babies before they are born.
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Lead-Based Paint and Lead Poisoning
One of the most common sources of lead poisoning today is from deteriorating lead paint or lead dust that is released during renovations on older homes. Lead was widely used in paint products prior to 1978, the year its use was banned by the federal government, although some states had already banned it. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is estimated that two-thirds of the homes built before 1940 and one-half of the homes built from 1940 to 1960 contain heavily-leaded paint.
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Because it was commonly applied to both interior and exterior surfaces, such as woodwork, doors and windows, it often happens that lead paint is disturbed during general home renovations. Undisturbed lead paint does not pose a health hazard per se, but if it is deteriorating or disturbed during window and door replacement s, then yes, it can be harmful. Precautions must be taken, because breathing in lead dust is dangerous.
As of April 22, 2010, federal law required that contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb more than six square feet of paint in homes that were built before 1978 must be certified and trained to follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.
So if you will be renovating your pre-1978 home, such as installing replacement windows or doors, or if you simply want to remove paint as a safety precaution for the future, you must follow the EPA’s strict guidelines for its removal, because the improper removal of lead-based paint increases the risk to you and your family. And just painting over the area with regular paint in the hope that you can cover it up isn’t a solution.
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Hiring Certified Professionals
First, you should test for lead if you suspect there is lead-based paint in the area that you plan to renovate. So who does the lead testing? While there are do-it-yourself kits on the market, it is recommended that the inspection be carried out by a certified lead professional. Once it is determined that lead is present, for example in your window sills and trim, and you still want to proceed with renovations, the work must be performed by certified lead professionals.
So be sure that the company you hire to do the work has been certified by the EPA. The lead-safe renovator and the firm itself have to be listed with the EPA. This verifies that they went through the required training as an organization and as individuals and that they are committed to following lead-safe work laws.
The Abatement Process
You will probably hear the term “abatement” used in conjunction with this work. Abatement simply means “permanent hazard elimination.” These methods include removing, sealing, or enclosing lead-based paint with special materials.
Wearing specially designed lead-safe suits, these certified professionals will follow very exacting procedures to ensure that no lead dust escapes into the atmosphere or can contaminate your home. These steps include cordoning off the property for the duration of the work, sealing off the work area itself, spraying down each piece that is removed and wrapping each piece separately in plastic.