Although everyone can be affected by the hazards of lead-based paint, children under the age of six are most vulnerable and have a significantly higher health risk. The new federal regulation is intended to protect children and adults during renovation, repair, and painting projects in pre-1978 housing and in pre-1978 child-occupied facilities, including schools and daycare centers, where existing lead-based paint will be disturbed by the work.
Children exposed to lead at an early age are likely to suffer from a variety of permanent conditions including: brain, liver, and kidney damage; slowed development; learning disabilities; behavior problems; lowered intellect; hearing loss; and restlessness, according to the EPA. The EPA website offers detailed information about what causes lead poisoning and the signs of lead poisoning on its website: http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/chancefactsheet.pdf
Where does lead in homes come from? Dust is the main problem. The most common way to get lead in the body is from dust that is ingested. Young children are at highest risk due to irresponsible renovations that spread lead dust around a home or business. When young children place their hands in their mouth while playing or crawling, they inadvertently ingest the toxin. On the other hand, coming in contact with lead dust is not necessarily harmful if properly managed. Lead dust comes from deteriorating lead-based paint, which was commonly used before 1978, and from lead-contaminated soil that gets tracked into the home. This dust, however, may accumulate to unsafe levels and home renovation creates large quantities. Common renovation activities like sanding, cutting, and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips that threaten the health of younger family members.
But proper, lead-safe work practices protect families from the dust during a renovation, repair, or painting job. These practices include: containing dust inside the work area, using dust-minimizing work methods, and conducting a careful cleanup. An EPA-certified renovator will adhere to the EPA’s rules and regulations to ensure the safety of your family and your home.
As a dedicated advocate for environmental safety issues in the renovation industry, I’m glad to see the EPA mandating that all contractors follow safe and sensible work practices when dealing with pre-1978 housing. All companies need to approach their work with an eye toward protecting their customers’ properties and families. Contractors must invest in and utilize specialized equipment like HEPA vacuums and air-filtration units that contain and remove lead dust during renovation.
James Gulliford, the EPA’s assistant administrator for Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, warns consumers about the necessity of hiring contractors who are in compliance with EPA law.
In published reports, Gulliford has been quoted as saying, “Childhood lead poisoning is a preventable disease. The EPA’s new rule requires contractors and maintenance workers who renovate and repair older housing, child care facilities, and schools to follow common sense lead-safe work practices so that children are not exposed to hazardous lead dust. By requiring renovators to be certified, we’re also helping consumers identify contractors who are trained in lead-safe work practices.” Gulliford reiterated the EPA’s goal, “to eliminate childhood lead poisoning as a major health concern by the year 2010.”
But what qualifications should consumers look for when hiring a contractor?
Property owners have the ultimate responsibility for the safety of their family, tenants, or children in their care. This means properly preparing for the renovation, keeping people out of the work area, and ensuring the use of lead-safe work practices.
The new federal law requires that individuals receive specific information from their contractors before renovating six square feet or more of painted surfaces in a room for interior projects, or more than 20 square feet of painted surfaces for exterior projects, in housing, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978.
Renovators must give homeowners and tenants a copy of the EPA publication, Renovate Right, (Publication EPA-740-F-08-002), within 60 days of beginning renovation of target housing. The booklet, which can be downloaded from http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovaterightbrochure.pdf, is available in both English and Spanish. Also, renovators must provide a copy of this pamphlet and general renovation information to child care facilities, including preschools and kindergarten classrooms, and to the families of children under the age of six who attend those facilities.
To become an EPA “Certified Renovator,” contractors need to complete the required EPA Certified Renovator training courses in compliance with the new federal requirements. These courses are mandated in order to educate painters, contractors, and renovators about environmental regulations. Consumers should ask for proof of certification when considering prospective contractors.
Consumers need to be alert and informed about the importance of lead-safe work practices during painting, decorating, remodeling, renovation, and maintenance projects. They need to know if renovation, repair, or painting work in their home or apartment will trigger the requirements in the EPA rule. EPA’s website is the best source of information for consumers regarding the new requirements. Log onto www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovation.htm to get complete details about the regulation and valuable resources, including several PDF pamphlets on lead, lead-based paint, lead poisoning, and steps to perform renovations in pre-1978 housing and child-occupied facilities.