Girlfriends Talking: Lead Renovations in Older Homes

By Darlene Watford

A girlfriend of mine decided to have some additional work done this spring on her home. It’s a spacious, old home build in the 1950s with lots of charm and plenty of things that need to be updated and repaired. Last year, they updated the kitchen. This year, they plan to expand her twins’ bedrooms by combining them into one large room. She had heard something about the dangers of lead poisoning in older homes and the risks of renovating pre-1978 homes with lead paint. She asked, “What should I do to make sure the children are not harmed when the renovations are done?”

  • Should I search on the internet to learn more about EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting rule, or
  • Should I look for a contractor, but make sure to ask them if they are EPA Lead-Safe Certified?

My answer to her was, “Do both.”

I told her that learning about lead-safe renovations is one of the many actions she can take to prevent exposing her children to harmful lead dust when the renovations are done in her home.

It is important to hire only contractors who have been trained and work for a lead-safe certified firm. Since April 2010, EPA requires contractors working on homes built before 1978 to be trained and firms to be lead-safe certified. Because other work was done on her home last year, I suggested that she follow EPA’s advice on lead-based paint to protect her family:

  1. Get Your Home Tested. Ask for a lead inspection since it was built before 1978.
  2. Get Your Child Tested. Ask your pediatrician to test young children for lead even if they seem healthy.
  3. Get the Facts. Read more information about steps you can take to prevent childhood lead poisoning.

Are you planning renovations on your older home? If so, just like my girlfriend, be sure to demand that your contractor be lead-safe certified.

About the author: Darlene Watford has worked to protect kids from lead paint poisoning for over 18 years in EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics in the National Program Chemicals Division.