EPA Changes Requirements for Lead Based Paint and Pipes

paint brushes

Why would you care if the EPA changed the requirements for working with lead based paint or lead pipes?  Well if your home is built after 1978, or you never plan on owning a home built before then you don’t need to concern yourself with the changes.  If your home is built before 1978 and you ever plan on having someone do any work on your home this does affect you.  Here’s a little scenario of what can happen now; you want to take advantage of local and federal rebates and increase your energy efficiency so you decide to get new windows and doors installed on your home.  Your home was built in the late 1960’s and the windows are causing your heat bills to be outrageous.  You go directly to a window supplier and order the windows and doors yourself and you find someone who is willing to install them for you.  You are going to pay them for each window that is installed.  This worker starts working on your home and he has the first few windows in and out in no time, now he has a large side-by-side window out in your master bedroom and the EPA stops by for a visit and finds that this installer never provided you with a Renovate Right Lead Pamphlet, never tested the areas he was disturbing, was not a certified renovator and wasn’t properly containing the dust in the work area.  The EPA would put a stop to all work at that time, as it was with the window out.  They would heavily fine the installer (up to $37,500 per day) and would not allow them to continue to work.  Here your home is, in disarray and this guy can’t do any work because he didn’t follow the EPA’s regulations.  As a homeowner you are not held liable but now the price of your window installation could possibly double because a Certified Firm is going to send in a Certified Renovator to test the areas that will be disturbed and once lead-based paint is found all of these rules will need to be followed.  These are not bad regulations but if they aren’t followed then your project may not go as smoothly as you would have hoped and here is why.

There are several reasons that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has put new regulations in place when it comes to handling or disturbing lead paint; first they are concerned about the homeowner – either small children or pregnant women in particular.  Second the lead that is in lead paint or lead pipes just isn’t good stuff.  These new requirements, which took effect on April 22nd, 2010, are focused only on those licensed businesses that are performing work on a residence.  After April 22nd a renovator or remodeler must follow a much more strict set of guidelines set forth by the EPA when working on a house built before January 1, 1978.  The EPA is calling it “Lead Safe Work Practices” and really it is nothing more than properly protecting a family from the dust that a worker is creating while performing the required work.

As I see it there are four main areas that the EPA is focused on: EDUCATION of the client prior to work beginning, TESTING of the areas that will be disturbed, CONTAINING the dust during the work and THUROUGH CLEANING of the area after completion of the project.  Educating a client is probably one of the least touched upon parts of this process but is one of the most important.  If your home was built before 1978 there is a good chance that there is lead paint on or in it somewhere; the older the home the more likely that there is lead paint.

Year Built                                                         Percent of Houses with Lead Based Paint

Before 1940                                                                             86%

1940 –1959                                                                             66%

1960 – 1978                                                                            25%

All Housing                                                                               35%

The above table shows if any lead is present, it may only be on one surface but it is in or on the home.  You can see that in the 60’s they started to realize that lead wasn’t the best thing and the reason for the drop in percentage of lead based paint was because it was typically used on the outside of a home throughout and beyond the 60’s until it was banned in 1978.

What can lead based paint do to an individual?  It really depends on who that individual is; small children (under six years old) are more vulnerable as well as pregnant women.  Lead based paint can cause damages to the brain and central nervous systems, decreased intelligence, reading and learning difficulties, behavior problems and hyperactivity.  The biggest problem is that if these aren’t caught early on then they can become permanent.  In terms of pregnant women it isn’t the adult who is the concern but it is the child who is the concern.  Seeing as lead affects development you could imagine how dramatic a difference it would make on an unborn child.  Not only does it affect the development but can also lead to premature births, miscarriages and low birth weight.  These two demographics are the highest concern but that isn’t to say that everyone else is immune to lead.  Lead can cause high blood pressure, physical fatigue and loss of sex drive as well as other illnesses.  Quite often a doctor can easily misdiagnose this, it takes proper testing of the Blood Lead Level to know for sure if someone did have lead poisoning.

There are some simple ways to help minimize the effects of lead on your body; increasing the amount of calcium and iron you intake doesn’t allow the lead to stay in your body.  This isn’t a cure for lead poisoning, if someone has been exposed to lead dust for an extended period of time it is likely that they would suffer from the side effects for the rest of their life.

I don’t want to scare everyone that is not my intent of this blog post.  I hope to let people know that if a project is not properly planned for there can be some long-term effects.  The thing that I do want to inform everyone of is what is now required of someone who may work on your home.  These rules go for plumbers, painters and remodelers and are currently in place.  So what does the EPA now say we need to do for you on the job?

First we have to test to know if what we are working on is lead based paint.  There is a good chance that if we are working inside a home built in 1975 that there may not be lead based paint.  We have to test every area that we are disturbing so if we are removing and replacing a window we have to test the wall inside and outside, surrounding the window as well as test all parts of the window (sill, sashes, trough, etc.).  Once we discover that there is lead based paint we can stop testing but if we don’t find lead on the inside wall we still have to test the outside wall and all parts of the window.  We also have to document everywhere we tested and which test kit we used.  Someone doing the work can always assume that there is lead and perform the lead-safe work practices, but for a home older than 1978 you are unable to assume that there isn’t lead based paint.

Second we have to contain the dust we will create, as in the above example it can get a little complicated.  If we are replacing a window and there is lead based paint on the window trim (inside and out), the window sash and the siding around the window then we have the possibility of disturbing a lot of lead.  We must contain that dust so as not to contaminate the rest of the home with lead dust.  Closing off the inside of the home can be quite easy, plastic and tape off the doorways and put plastic over the HVAC vents – both supply and return; it is the outside that can be a little tricky.  The EPA doesn’t require a whole circus tent to be set up around a house, nor do they even require that a renovator builds temporary plastic walls; they only require that the surrounding area has plastic laid out to catch the chips/dust as they fall.  The challenge with this is trying to stop the wind from blowing!

Then we have to clean up our mess.  Every job gets dust everywhere; it is impossible to completely contain the dust (unless we locked a worker in a sealed off room until they were done with the project) inside a work-area.  The next best thing is to thoroughly cleanup once we are done.  A remodeler is required to clean an area up to three times to ensure that it is clean.  First everything must be wiped down using a wet wipe, you start at the back corner of the work area at the top of the wall and you literally wipe down the walls and every horizontal surface.  Windowsills are particularly important, they have a tendency to hold an excessive amount of dust.  The rule of thumb is to wipe from top to bottom, back to front so that you are never tracking lead over where you have already cleaned.   If it is a hard floor (wood or tile) we have to thoroughly mop it but if it is carpet then we have to use a special HEPA vacuum to ensure it is clean.  These aren’t your ordinary vacuums, it is a certified HEPA filtration system; there are multiple filters to ensure that the exhaust is clean of lead based dust.  Once all that is done a Certified Renovator must test the area and confirm that it passes the cleanliness guidelines set forth by the EPA.

In short if you are going to have work done on your home and it is built before 1978 make sure that the firm that you hire is a Certified Firm, you can check on the EPA’s web sit at http://cfpub.epa.gov/flpp/searchrrp_firm.htm . If there are any questions please feel free to email or call us at Kliethermes Homes & Remodeling, (573) 446-2222 or [email protected] .

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