April 26, 2011

Limiting the Lead Dust Generated in the Lead Contaminated Worksite

Limiting the amount of dust generated on a daily basis is critical to maintaining a healthy worksite as well as facilitating a fast clean-up when the project finalizes. These quick tips performed on a daily basis add only a few minutes to each workday, but save hours of clean-up on the backend.

When working on surfaces containing lead, mist them with water prior to sanding, scraping, cutting or drilling. This simple trick will cut down lead dust dramtically.

Prior to pulling apart components, score the joint with a utility knife and pry apart rather than pounding or breaking. This will minimize the amount of lead paint chips generated at the site.

When dealing with windows sills and other nonporous surfaces, you can use chemical strippers without methylene chloride to remove the contaminated paint without generating dust.

Wipe down the work space regularly with wet wipes and disposable swiffer wetjet pads to reduce the dust buildup. Place all debris in a heavy duty trash bag daily. Trash bags should be sealed with duct tape and removed to a secure dumpster or storage facility.

HEPA vacuum the area on a daily basis, and clean all tools before removing them from the worksite.

Equipment You will Need

•Water Spray Bottle
•Utility Knife
•Dry/wet Sandpaper
•Chemical strippers without Methylene Chloride
•Power tools with dust muzzle attachments for HEPA vacuum cleaners
•HEPA vacuum cleaner
•Low-temperature heat gun
•Dry Wipes, Wet Wipes and Swiffer Wipes
•Heavy-duty plastic bags
•Duct Tape to seal the trash bags

Caution: Certain procedures are prohibited by the RRP Rules in a lead safe work space. Use of power tools to sand, scrape, grind, plane or drill without a HEPA vacuum shroud attachment is strictly prohibited. Compressed air or sand blasters may not be used to remove lead from any of the surfaces. As with all renovation activities common sense should prevail - if inhaling lead dust is highly dangerous to your health, heating it to a vapor will be extremely hazardous to your health. Therefore, you may use a low-temperature heat gun, but heat guns used in excess of 1100 degrees are prohibited, as are open-flame burning torches.

Click here to learn more about Lead Paint Removal Training and our 8 Hour RRP Lead Certification Course.

February 26, 2011

Gearing Up With Lead-Safety Gear... Six Indispensible, Disposable Items!

In part three of our series on containing lead dust in an EPA RRP regulated worksite, we offer up some inexpensive solutions to the problem of protecting your workers and residents from the hazards of the dust generated at the worksite. Using disposable gear and disposing of it on a daily basis is the best way keep lead dust contained in the work area. Remember, lead dust on worker clothing and materials is easily removed to other areas of the residence under renovation, worker’s vehicles and the firm’s main office as well as worker’s homes. Minuscule amounts of lead dust are enough to contaminate an area, so if you can see dust on your shoes, tools or clothes, that dust will be enough to create a lead poisoning hazard.

Here is a shopping list to help keep your employees and the areas surrounding the work space safe. There are several companies specializing in providing lead safe work gear, so we have added links to their websites to help you with your shopping.

Materials you will need
• Gloves (Latex)
• Disposable antiskid shoe covers
• Disposable Coveralls (Tyvec)
• Painters Hats or Hoods
• Protective Eye Wear: Dust Goggles or Foam Safety Glasses
• N-100-rated disposable respirators

To keep yourself and your workers safe while working in the regulated area, it is important to limit hand to mouth contact. That means no eating, drinking or smoking in the work area. Before eating or smoking, employees should wash their hands and faces to limit the possibility of ingesting lead dust. Once the workday is over employees must remove work clothing and wash-up before leaving the work site. In our next post in the series, we will offer tips on limiting the amount of dust generated during the workday to help you minimize daily and final project cleanup.

We invite our readers and followers to post comments regarding their own experiences as well as links to other sources of protective gear with great pricing and service!

Lead and Asbestos Removal Pro Kit for Under $27.00

Pro-Tect Lead Removal and Safety Products or
Complete Safety Supply
For more information on Lead Training and Certification visit our website!

February 11, 2011

Step 2 In our Series: 6 Steps to Containing a Lead Contaminated Worksite

Step Two: Before the Work Begins, Containing the Area
If you are working on a home built prior to 1978, you will want to begin your bid process by testing the surfaces in the renovation area for lead paint or varnish. If you determine through an EPA-recognized Lead Testing Kit that your worksite contains lead, you will need to secure the regulated area prior to beginning any work activities. Here is a checklist of the materials you will need to properly secure the regulated area.

Materials You Will Need
• Heavy Plastic Sheeting
• Blue Painter Tape and/or Stapler
• Warning Signage which states: Warning Lead Poison Keep Out
• Warning/Barrier Tape
• Paperwork Holder

The procedures for containing the regulated space are similar in concept for both indoors and outdoors renovations. Remember, all companies involved in the renovation need to be an EPA Certified Firm and have an EPA Lead Certified Renovator on site during their renovation activities. EPA lead certification of one firm does not provide coverage for other firms subcontracting on the same project; each firm is responsible for its own activities and certifications.

Indoors Renovations:

• Remove all furniture and appliances possible prior to containment. Those items that cannot be removed should be encapsulated in heavy plastic or poly furniture covers.
• Close and seal all HVAC vents leading into and out of the worksite
• Turn off all HVAC systems during renovation whenever possible
• Seal all doors, windows and openings with heavy plastic and tape or staples
• Cover the floors with heavy plastic sheeting
• Place warning signage at all entrances to the worksite.
• Assign separate pathways and entrances to the home for residents and workers to enter and leave the site while working.

Outdoors Renovations:

• Seal all windows and doorways around the worksite
• Cover the ground and landscaping with heavy plastic
• Remove children’s playground equipment if possible, or cover with heavy plastic
• Mark-off work area with warning barrier tape

Be sure the residents understand the importance of respecting the barriers once work has begun. Curious homeowners may be tempted to sneak a peek at your progress, and in the process contaminate other areas of the residence. Once work has begun, homeowners wanting to check progress should be accompanied by one of your workers, someone who can help them to suit-up and decontaminate themselves before leaving the workspace. We will cover protective gear and clothing in Step 3 of our series, Gearing Up With Lead-Safe Protective Gear.

January 31, 2011

Six Steps To Lead Containment: A Lead Certified Contractor’s Guide to EPA RRP Worksite Containment: Step One

It’s a surprising statistic that lead paint was used in approximately 38 million homes prior to its banning in 1978. The EPA estimates that 24% of homes built between 1960 and 1978 contain lead paint, 69% of homes built between 1940-1960 and 87% of those built before 1940 contain lead paint. Lead paint is out there, and you need to know the RRP Rules and Regulations in order to maintain compliance with them. In this series of articles we will provide you with a step by step guide to proper containment procedures and materials to help you to ensure compliance with the EPA RRP Rules.

Remember, you must be EPA Certified prior to starting on a lead contaminated renovation project. One eight hour course will get you certified, it’s inexpensive and well worth the investment. Failure to comply may result in fines of up to $37,500.00 per day, per violation. If a repair or renovation will disturb more than six square feet of interior painted surfaces or 20 square feet of exterior painted surfaces, these rules apply to you.

As a contractor working on homes and childcare facilities built prior to 1978, you should be aware of the new EPA RRP Lead Safety regulations that place specific legal responsibilities on renovators, painters, plumbers, electricians and glaziers. Homeowners on the other hand are typically unaware of the rules until a lead certified renovator or a health related incident brings them to their attention…

Distributing The EPA Renovate Right Pamphlet
If you are working on a home or childcare facility built prior to 1978, Federal law requires that you provide the homeowners and residents with the EPA’s Renovate Right Brochure. This pamphlet is available and downloadable from the EPA’s website; it informs residents of the hazards of lead contamination, the basics of lead containment and provides recommendations for lead testing and the hiring of Lead Certified Renovation professionals.

Distributing this brochure can be a useful marketing tool for you as well. You can set yourself apart from the competition as an EPA Certified Firm and Renovator. Additionally, the brochure educates homeowners regarding the special equipment and containment materials that will be required and ultimately built into your proposal. The Renovate Right brochure can help you to pass through these additional operating costs; homeowners that understand the hazards of lead contamination also understand the extra expenses required to provide them with a safe living environment both during and following the renovation.

Once you have won the bid, there will be new materials you will need to invest in prior to beginning the project. In the next issue in this series, Step Two: Before the Work Begins, Containing the Area , we will provide a shopping list and breakdown the procedures required to contain the work area. The RRP Rules and recommendations that we review in this article are designed to protect both the workers and the occupants from the hazards of lead poisoning. The processes are not difficult or costly, in fact they are fairly straightforward, so make sure you get EPA Lead Certified prior to beginning any RRP regulated renovations, follow the RRP Rules, and get the lead out right.

November 1, 2010


If My Home Could Contain Lead Paint, How Do I Test for It?
EPA RRP Lead-Based Paint Certification and Safety Laws
As with any new program, most people, home owners and contractors alike, first hearing about the EPA’s Lead Paint Certification program are very skeptical. Yet we find, when they REALLY investigate the issue, they realize that the program is needed to bring awareness those individuals who might inadvertently produce lead poisoning exposure. Today, in 2010/2011, many people, contactors included, are initially caught off guard and are unaware of the very real health hazards associated with paint containing lead when it’s disrupted. The bottom line, Lead-based paint is hazardous to your health.

How many people would jump into a neighborhood pond if they knew of an alligator living in it? Yet, many people have jumped into such a pond or have had their dogs drinking water from such a pond, only to find out after it’s too late, that an alligator was living in it. In the world of lead paint…the alligator is paint containing lead, and the pond is a house built prior to 1978. Today, lead-based paint is a major source of lead poisoning for children and can also affect adults. In children, lead poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage and can impair mental functioning. It can retard mental and physical development and reduce attention span. It can also retard fetal development, even at extremely low levels of lead. In adults, it can cause irritability, poor muscle coordination, and nerve damage to the sense organs and nerves controlling the body. Lead poisoning may also cause problems with reproduction (such as a decreased sperm count). It may also increase blood pressure. Thus, young children, fetuses, infants, and adults with high blood pressure are the most vulnerable to the effects of lead.

Children should be screened for lead poisoning
In communities where the houses are old and deteriorating, take advantage of available screening programs offered by local health departments, and have children checked regularly to see if they are suffering from lead poisoning. Because the early symptoms of lead poisoning are easy to confuse with other illnesses, it is difficult to diagnose lead poisoning without medical testing. Early symptoms may include persistent tiredness, irritability, loss of appetite, stomach discomfort, reduced attention span, insomnia, and constipation. Failure to treat children in the early stages can cause long-term or permanent health damage.

How are people exposed to lead from paint?
Contractors and or individuals involved in home renovation activities can generate lead dust by sanding lead-based paint or by scraping or heating lead-based paint. Eating paint chips is one way young children are exposed to lead. This is not the most common way that consumers, in general, are exposed to lead. Ingesting and inhaling lead dust that is created as lead-based paint "chalks," chips, or peels from deteriorated surfaces can expose consumers to lead. Walking on small paint chips found on the floor, or opening and closing a painted frame window, can also create lead dust. Other sources of lead include deposits that may be present in homes after years of use of leaded gasoline and from industrial sources like smelting. Lead dust can settle on floors, walls, and furniture. Under these conditions, children can ingest lead dust from hand-to-mouth contact or from food. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air through cleaning, such as sweeping or vacuuming, or by movement of people throughout the house.

How much lead does it take to get lead poisoning?
Only about 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood. What does that mean?
A deciliter is about 1/2 of a cup.

◦A packet of sweetener is roughly one gram.
◦There are one million micrograms in a gram.
◦So, divide the stuff from one packet into one million piles. (Pretend!)
◦Now, discard 999,990 of those "piles."
◦Take the remaining 10 piles and mix them into half a cup of liquid.
Now….that’s not much! Microscopic levels of lead metal can impair the health of a human, especially a young developing child.

Q. So…how do you test for Lead-Based Paint and Lead Dust?
A. The EPA Lead Abatement Certification program offers three lead hazard assessment methods available to homeowners:
Lead-Based Paint Inspection, Risk Assessment and a Lead Hazard Screen. The EPA strongly recommends that you have the testing performed by an EPA RRP Certified Professional. Certified Inspectors may perform Lead-Based Paint Inspections, and Certified Risk Assessors can perform both Lead Risk Assessments as well as Lead Hazard Screens.

Lead-Based Paint Inspection: Generally recommended prior to beginning a renovation in a home built prior to 1978. During the inspection all painted surfaces in the home including varnishes and stains are inventoried and inspected for the presence of lead-based paint. Furniture, dust and soil are not typically tested during an inspection. When the report has been completed, you should have an inventory of all surfaces tested and whether the surfaces contain lead.

Risk Assessment: The lead risk assessment is the most rigorous testing method. This method is highly recommended for those who suspect or have confirmed lead poisoning in family members. Not only are all deteriorated paint surfaces covered in the Inspection reviewed, but dust from children’s rooms, hallways and play areas are tested in addition to soil from children’s play areas. In the event furniture, window sills or molding show bite marks, these surfaces may be tested as well.

Lead Hazard Screening: Recommended for homes and facilities with a low chance of contamination. The Lead Hazard Screening is a scaled down version of the Risk Assessment. Typically, deteriorated paint surfaces are tested, two samples of dust are collected (windows and floors) and soil will not be tested unless there is evidence of paint chips in the soil. A report that shows substantial risks, may require a follow-up with a full-blown Risk Assessment.

Q. How are the surfaces tested?
A. Two methods of Lead-Based Paint Testing are recognized by the EPA:
Portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzers and paint chip sampling which is analyzed by a laboratory recognized by EPA’s National Lead Laboratory Accreditation Program.

Portable X-Ray Fluorescence Analyzers (XRFs) A portable XRF measures lead in paint, usually without damaging the paint. In some instances, the material beneath the paint or curves in paint chips on deteriorated surfaces can affect the lead level readings. In these instances the paint must be removed, and the underlying surface is tested to create a baseline for the painted surface being tested. This is the fastest method for delivering results, although in instances where the testing is inconclusive, paint chip samples will need to be delivered to a laboratory for further testing.

Paint Chip Sampling & Lab Analysis: By using a chisel or scraper, one to four square inches of all layers of paint are removed. Generally, a small layer of the underlying surface (wood, plaster or concrete) is removed with the sample. Following removal of the test material, the surface is repainted to prevent contamination for exposed lead surfaces. The samples are then sent to an EPA NLLAP laboratory for testing. This is the most conclusive method for testing for lead-based paint.

Keep in mind, if your home was built before 1978, and you are planning on renting or selling it, the EPA requires that you provide the test results to your buyers or renters.

To learn more about Contractor Lead Paint Certification visit To learn more about testing procedures, please visit the EPA’s Lead-Based Paint Safety site and read EPA’s pamphlet on lead paint testing.

October 11, 2010

Lead Poisoning: Its Symptoms and Treatment

When Does Lead Poisoning Occur and What Are the Symptoms?

Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in the body, often over a period of months or years. Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems. Children under the age of 6 are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can severely affect mental and physical development. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal.

Lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in older buildings are the most common sources of lead poisoning in children. Other sources of lead poisoning include contaminated air, water, soil, and some toys and cosmetics.

The signs and symptoms of lead poisoning in children may include:
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Sluggishness and fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Unusual paleness from anemia
  • Learning difficulties

Lead Exposure symptoms in newborns

Babies in the womb who are exposed to lead through their mothers may have:

  • Learning difficulties
  • Slowed growth
In some cases, these problems may persist beyond childhood.

Lead Exposure symptoms in adults

Although children are primarily at risk, lead poisoning is also dangerous for adults. Even exposure to amounts of lead too low to cause symptoms in the short term may increase the risk of high blood pressure and mental decline in the future.

Symptoms in adults may include:

  • Pain, numbness or tingling of the extremities
  • Muscular weakness
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Memory loss
  • Mood disorders
  • Reduced sperm count, abnormal sperm
  • Miscarriage or premature birth in pregnant women
  • Fatigue

Treatment Options for Lead Poisoning:

Treatment for lead poisoning is based on a combination of factors including nutrition and removal of the source of contaimination.  In most instances, these measures will be sufficient to reduce lead levels in the body.
  • Removal of lead paint dust and lead chips should be performed by an EPA certified lead abatement professional.  Special lead containment procedures are required during repair and renovation as well as prescribed clean-up procedures to prevent further contamination of the site.
  • Nutrional support includes adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, and vitamin C. Studies find that those who eat nutritious diets rich in vitamins and minerals are less likely to absorb lead.
  • If removing the source of lead and improved nutrition do not reduce blood lead levels, or in instances where the blood lead  level is initially very high, chelation therapy may be required.  Through chelation therapy, agents that cause metals like lead to bind to them are introduced to the system.  As heavy metals like lead bind to the agents they are eliminated from the body through urine. Since chelating agents increase the absorption of metals including lead, it is essential that prior to treatment all sources of lead exposure be removed.
  • If blood levels for lead do not lower with the above treatments, it is suggested that you recheck the home or building for other sources of lead contamination.  Certified lead inspectors can help determine if a contamination site has been overlooked.

October 1, 2010

The new EPA RRP Lead Safety Rule - Myth, Mania or Material Risk?

Many of our students enter the new EPA Lead Paint Certification classes skeptical of the real risks that might be involved in working on lead-based paint contaminated renovations.  After all, US regulations discontinued its sale after 1978. Students question whether the new regulations will merely hinder their ability to get the job done. 
While contamination levels have dropped since the 1960’s, the CDC estimates that approximately 250,000 U.S. children aged 1-5 years have blood lead levels greater than 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, the level at which CDC recommends public health actions be initiated.  The Ohio ABLES Registry reports that 14% of adults age 16-80 tested for elevated lead levels had levels greater than 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood.  Elevated contamination levels were most likely to be reported for individuals in the age range of 40-64. It is assumed that this greater risk is due to the fact that these individuals are more likely to be working fulltime, thus increasing their risk of exposure.
Lead causes long term nervous system damage, stunted growth, delayed development, and emotional issues in children and adults.  It has been known to cause kidney damage and can affect most organ systems in the body. As a danger to adults, it can cause reproductive problems for both men and women. Lead paint is particularly treacherous because it tastes sweet, therefore encouraging children to put lead chips and toys with lead dust in their mouth.
One myth related to lead-based paint is that children must eat leaded paint chips to develop lead poisoning, when in fact the most common exposure to children occurs through ingestion of lead dust from normal hand-to-mouth contact when they swallow lead dust dislodged from deteriorated paint or leaded dust generated during contractor repair work, remodeling or paint surface preparation work.

Much like Asbestos and second hand smoke, lead dust is an insidious contaminant that is not easily eliminated from the body by normal processes.  Given that lead dust is portable and can easily contaminate ventilation systems, vehicles and worker’s clothing, the EPA’s guidelines for lead safety, containment and protective gear are meaningful and necessary.  To learn more about the guidelines and learn how to get the lead out right, click on the links to the EPA’s RRP website.  If you are interested in learning more about the curriculum and exam necessary for certification check out our website at  In my next post, I’ll go over the specifics of lead poisoning: its symptoms in children and adults as well as treatment options.