by Lou Perron
With the warm weather, lots of people are hiring painters to repaint their homes. I needed to repaint an old house that I renovated a few years ago, but I’d heard from my friend Lorisa Seibel, of the Durham Affordable Housing Coalition, that there had been major changes in how this could be done. So I asked a painter I’ve used and recommended over many years, to take the one-day course to get lead-based paint certified. He brought back lots of information, both about techniques and the extent of health concerns.
Lead paint is the number one environmental health risk for children. Children ingest paint chips, dust containing lead and even lead in the water. Lead persists in the body, which absorbs it from the bloodstream into the bones, as if it is calcium. In the body, lead can cause damage to the brain and central nervous system. This is particularly a problem for young children under 6, whose bodies are growing rapidly. Their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to lead’s effects. Some of the health effects that can result from lead exposure are behavioral and learning problems, hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems, and headaches. For more information check out the EPA’s Lead Free Kids website: www.leadfreekids.org
Prior to 1978, paints used in residential work contained lead. So if your home was built prior to 1978, you can assume that there is some amount of lead in the house.
As of April 2010, the EPA has put new rules in effect for dealing with renovations of houses built prior to 1978. This is called the “Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting Program (RRP.)” It requires workers to follow special procedures if a repair will disturb more than 6 square feet of painted surface on the interior, or 20 square feet on the exterior. In addition, any firm doing the work must be certified and at least one person on the job must have completed the EPA training.
A key piece of this new regulation is the “pre-renovation education requirement.” Homeowners should receive a copy of the EPA pamphlet Renovate Right, which informs them of the risks and explains the process of lead sensitive renovation. During the renovation, signs must be posted to prevent anyone from coming into the work area. The renovator will also need to keep records of the work for 3 years.
Removing lead paint requires special precautions, too numerous to include here. Some of the basics: First, the work area must be contained, including sealing off ducts when working in the interior. On the exterior, the ground must be covered. The common practice of burning off lead paint is specifically prohibited. Heat guns may not be used at temperatures higher than 1100 degrees. Everyone has seen painters use power tools to remove peeling paint from a home’s exterior. Under the rules, power tools such as sanders or grinders must be equipped with HEPA exhaust control. There are strict requirements for clean-up and removal of debris.
The EPA can enforce compliance, with severe penalties for violations.
My painter got his training at Durham Tech. It cost $195, but that’s a small price to pay to protect the health of our children. If you have a painter you love, get him or her to take the class.
Here are some additional resources on Lead Paint issues:
Centers for Disease Control Lead Information
Durham Affordable Housing Coalition – does training and education on lead based paint. Contact Lorisa Seibel, 919-683-1185x25, Lorisa@dahc.org
EPA’s Lead Site