Mitigating the hazards of Lead Paint

Lead paint is an unfortunate reality that many people with older homes have to face.  It can be everywhere – inside, outside, and on your cabinets, trim doors & windows.  While healthy adults don’t have a whole lot to fear from incidental exposure to lead in an old house, children are a different story.  Even minute amounts of lead can affect a child’s development, and cause all kinds of problems.  This is why, like it or not, if you have lead paint in your home you need to know a few things to keep you safe and mitigate the hazard of exposure.


1: Keep things clean:  In a home with lead paint, lead can lurk anywhere.  The very dust that settles on your mantelpiece could be riddled with lead particulate, kicked up from tiny chips of paint among the floor boards, brought in from the outside if you have lead chips around the house, or even put into the air from the friction of painted doors, windows & cabinets being opened and closed.  It is doubly important, then, to keep things clean – especially window sills where lead dust from the window sash & trim is very common.


2:  Maintenance is key: Watch out for degrading painted surfaces in and around your home.  When the paint begins to crack, flake or peel, it begins to pose a contamination hazard.  It is important to maintain degrading surfaces with touch-up painting, especially inside your home.


3:  Repainting does NOT eliminate the risk of future lead exposure:  This is a common myth/misunderstanding.  Since repainting involves only removing the failing paint, then recoating over the top of all that’s left, you are indeed encapsulating and thus eliminating the immediate risk of lead exposure.  However, since lead paint and lead residue still continue to reside underneath your new paint, if and when that new paint fails, peels or is otherwise breached (scratched or dented physically) the risk of exposure is still there.


4:  Hire a professional for big jobs:  It can be tempting to try and DIY a project in your home that will disturb lead paint, but unless you have taken a class or extensively read up on the procedures for lead control, it is best to leave it to the pros.  Make sure you hire one that knows what they are doing.  Nearly all painting contractors are required to be “Lead Certified”, and nearly all painting contractors tout the fact that they are.  However there are many fewer of them who follow through with the full adoption of all the procedures required to work safely with lead.  Make sure you don’t hire someone who might put you and your family at risk of lead exposure – anyone you hire should be able to talk intelligently about what they will do to keep you safe, and their procedures should include at minimum the following standards with respect to a large scale painting project:

-Close, seal or mask all windows/doors within work zones prior to commencing work

-Post applicable signage & limit access to work zones wherever possible

-Set up full lead containment zones for prep (EPA minimum standards + performance-based containment), which includes poly sheeting taped to walls, performance based curbs, & vertical containment as neccessary

-Keep surfaces misted wet while conducting scraping/hand-sanding work to minimize airborne lead dust

-Clean exposed/contaminated horizontal surfaces with HEPA VAC after scraping is complete

-Dispose of all waste in accordance with EPA guidelines

-Maintain worker protection & lead-safe work practices throughout the duration of the job (VOSHA standards)

-Workers must wear full & proper personal protective equipment, including gloves, eye protection and full-body coveralls (haz-mat suits) when working within lead zones

-Workers must don protective respirators (minimum p-100) while working within lead zones

-Hygenic facilities (washing stations) must be provided at entrance/exit of lead zones.


If you have any other questions or concerns regarding lead in your home, you can also always call us here at Green Mountain Painters.  We are experts at doing large scale full home exterior repaints on lead painted homes, safely, efficiently, and to the highest of quality standards, and we provide free estimates & consultations – so you can know exactly what the best options are to beautify your home while keeping your lead exposure risk down.