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Girlfriends Talking: Lead Renovations in Older Homes

2011 April 7

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.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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10 Responses leave one →
  1. Inquisitive permalink
    April 7, 2011

    How many children were actually tested before and after after their home was remodeled and proved positive for lead contamination caused by that remodeling?

    What was the exposure route?

  2. DADSGETNDOWN permalink
    April 7, 2011

    How about I believe the things they use these days are lead safe, or lead free, but it’s the old stuff coming off in which we worry about right ?.. don’t be there while it’s being remodeled..

  3. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    April 10, 2011

    It is vital that the contractor doing the remodeling of an older home be certified in handling lead paint contamination.. This may cost a little more on the construction bill but would be worth the cost. The contractor also needs to know how to dispose of toxics and hazardous materials in the right way. These are things that cannot be simply left in the regular trash or the recycle dumpsters. If at all possible, children should go to a relative’s house or a camping trip or something while the old lead paint is being taken out. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  4. melissa keetsa permalink
    April 12, 2011

    Darlene, Thank you so much for information! We are having house repainted–Our contractor is certified to handle it in safest way..


  5. Charles permalink
    April 14, 2011

    “EPA requires contractors working on homes built before 1978 to be trained and firms to be lead-safe certified.” Well, fine, but talk is cheap. EPA won’t actually enforce the training and certification, so what’s the point?

    There are painters and renovators that have not and won’t get trained & certified. And they cost LESS to hire.

  6. Shirly D. Burton permalink
    April 28, 2011

    Hi Darlene, you did the right thing telling her to do both.. Most people are not aware that there is lead present in their contemporary bedroom furniture until they would find out that they got illness from it..

  7. Central Coast Painters permalink
    September 12, 2011

    A really mind openig topic descussed with good knowledge and I can say it is very helpful.

  8. Central Coast Painters permalink
    October 3, 2011

    I am linking this web page from my personal web page .

  9. Painter Beach permalink
    November 24, 2011

    I have been looking for a blog thats really helpful, and I was given this site. It was really wonderful.

  10. June 1, 2012

    Hi there,
    Some sort of girl involving acquire chosen to involve some more work done this kind of planting season for a laugh property. A ample, outdated property construct from the 1952s with lots of attraction and plenty involving issues that should be current along with mended.


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