Lead-based paint is a concern because young children can ingest (eat) lead-based paint chips, or be exposed to dust which raises their blood lead levels. Even at very low concentrations of lead in blood, children can become debilitated, with impairment of brain development occurring. Similarly, pregnant mothers exposed to elevated lead levels can inadvertently pass the concentrations of lead in their blood into developing fetuses. 

How Do You Tell if it is a Problem?

Lead-based paint is a potential problem, in pre-1978 residences. After this date, the sale of lead-based paint for residential use was banned. Where it is suspected to be a problem, a licensed lead-based paint inspector must perform an inspection, to see if the paint is in fact, lead-based paint, and what condition it is in. Further steps are identified during the inspection. If there are any significant areas of lead-based paint in poor condition, dust samples must be taken, to see how contaminated the residence is.

What is a "Lead Screen"?

The "lead screen" involves taking a minimum number of dust samples, in addition to the inspection, to see whether lead-based paint is present in selected areas of the residence, and to see how high the lead dust concentrations are. If the lead dust levels fall below the lead screen criteria, further testing is not needed.

What is a "Risk Assessment"?

Where significant lead dust contamination is present at a residence, a more thorough "risk assessment" must be performed, involving taking a larger number of samples, to determine the extent of abatement that will be needed at the residence. A risk assessment looks at not only lead painted surfaces, but additional exposure routes, and outside soil areas are reviewed as well. Once the results of the risk assessment are available, abatement alternatives and a recommended strategy for the residence can be developed.

What are the Potential Lead-based Paint sources in a Residence?

Typical sources of lead-based paint in a residence include:

  • Lead painted window "friction surfaces", and in particular, sashes and window troughs;
  • Lead painted door friction surfaces;
  • White painted trim and molding;
  • White painted doors;
  • White painted plaster walls;
  • White or gray painted floor surfaces;
  • Other light painted surfaces anywhere in the residence.

Secondary sources of lead dust at residences include heating/ventilating and air-conditioning systems, and, vacuum cleaners. Vacuum cleaners can be problematic because the vacuum cleaner grinds up paint chips, and can pass lead dust back out into the residence in the air as fine dust. Also, where there is a forced air heating system and there is lead dust in a residence, it can accumulate in duct systems as well and be spread because most residences do not have fine dust filters. 

What Abatement Measures are Usually Necessary?

At most residences, and particularly, at those which have been well maintained, measures involve removing and replacing windows, including sashes and troughs, and then, conducting a limited dust cleanup within the residence itself. Most other surfaces within the residence are then made "lead safe," so long as the paint material substrate (underlying material) is stable where the walls or floors have been allowed to deteriorate. Because of water damage, abatement measures can sometimes be much more extensive, and the abatement cost can exceed the value of the residence. Where there is white painted exterior siding or surfaces, soil removal or covering is sometimes also needed.

Who Does the Work?

Licensed lead based paint inspectors and abatement contractors are the only entities who are allowed to perform this work. As of June 1999 the United States Environmental Protection Agency disallowed renovators to work on lead-based paint. Lead-based paint activities are regulated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the United States Environmental Agency, or state Departments of Environmental Protection or Labor, as per the set regulations in individual states. RT Environmental Services is licensed for this work in most states we practice in.

When is Abatement Impractical? 

Abatement is impractical in residences where many interior painted surfaces are poorly maintained, and there is water damage, typically because the roof has been allowed to deteriorate. In such instances, the cost of the abatement does frequently exceed the value of residence. Similarly, houses with extensive exterior impacted soil conditions in addition to interior conditions, pose additional financial challenges. For the majority of residences, where window removal/replacement, and limited interior dust cleanup, and, stabilization of remaining trim indoors is needed, costs tend to be in the $13,000 to $40,000 range. 

What is "Lead Stabilization"? 

Lead stabilization refers to the practice of making the lead painted surface of no further risk, so long as it is maintained. Such paint has to have suitable substrate conditions, meaning that wood is not rotted, concrete beneath the paint is not spalling or excessively cracking, and if plaster is present underneath the paint, that is in good hard condition, and is not dusting. Paint which is in good condition can simply be encapsulated, by being covered with a spray clear coat, or painted over by another paint, which is not lead containing. 

What is the Difference Between "Lead Free" and "Lead Safe"? 

"Lead free" simply means that all lead-based paint has been removed from a particular residence. In most cases, this is impractical. "Lead safe" means that high ongoing lead exposure sources are abated, with the balance of sources being made "lead safe". The overall residence is then considered "lead safe", which is the only practical alternative for most residences with significant quantities of lead based painted surfaces.  

What Follow Up is Necessary? 

Routine maintenance of painted surfaces, and proper home maintenance are essential elements to minimizing ongoing exposure to lead dust, where lead-based paint surfaces remain. If there is any question regarding deteriorated substrate, or questionable material conditions, follow up inspections by a licensed inspector are needed. Home owners should follow all "practical tips" for home maintenance, to make sure that lead dust, lead paint chips, and consequential exposure of children is not a problem. Maintenance means that potential future exposure remains at minimal levels. 

Are there "Practical Tips" for Home Maintenance? 

The following practical tips are recommended for all home owners, apartment owners, and for commercial and industrial facilities, where there are significant quantities of white painted surfaces, and where the facility was constructed before 1978: 

  • Use "wet wiping" techniques regularly, during cleaning operations. Do not attempt to launder and dry wiping materials, but keep rags, mops, etc. separated from other laundry. Do not forget to clean window troughs, and use gloves while wet cleaning.
  • Only use HEPA filters - equipped vacuums, as these are the only vacuums which trap nearly all lead dust, and do not pass fine particles into residence air.
  • Do not ever sand or burn white painted surfaces. Conduct renovations of light painted surfaces, no matter how small, using only licensed lead-based paint abatement contractors.
  • Where light color paints appear to be deteriorating, conduct frequent maintenance, and maintain all painted surfaces in good condition.
  • If you have a forced air heating or air-conditioning system, avoid use of common fiberglass air filters. Use high efficiency pleated filters, to maximize filtration of fine dust, minimizing the potential for lead dust to be present in the future.
  • Do not use second hand children's furniture, which is light color painted, and be aware of paint conditions in or near all children play areas. Be especially wary of children play areas near housing drip lines, particularly where there is white siding on a house.

RT Environmental Services has been completing lead-based paint abatement projects since 1992, and we would be glad to assist you with getting answers to your questions. Although there are rules at various levels of government, the majority of lead-based paint rules which apply to child-occupied facilities affect housing, which includes apartment houses, (including common areas) residences, daycare facilities, and other areas where children might play. Selected lead based paint abatement and practical ongoing maintenance of "lead safe" conditions are the keys to minimizing exposure at most child-occupied facilities or properties. For further information, contact us at 800-725-0993.  

Please call Gary Brown at (610) 265-1510 for more information or questions regarding lead based paint, or use the Request for Services form to obtain a proposal within 24 Hours