childhood lead poisoning

Renovate Right: Lead-Based Paint Is Still a Problem

By Crystal McIntyre

“Is lead paint still around?” “I thought they got rid of all the lead.” I’ve heard these surprising responses more than once during my interactions with EPA’s regulated community through the years. Sadly, those misconceptions are very far from the truth.

More than 30 million homes in the U.S. still contain lead-based paint. They were built before 1978, when lead-based paint was banned for residential use. So it’s still a big problem and will continue to be until this paint is removed from every home, day care center, school, and any other structure where adults and children spend long periods of time.

This may seem like a nearly impossible task because lead paint removal requires much money and expertise. However, not all hope is lost. In addition to the many projects designed to remove lead paint from homes, with funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, EPA has implemented regulations that require anyone getting paid to work on any privately-owned, pre-1978 properties must be properly trained and certified to do the work.

EPA’s Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule became fully effective in April 2010. Over the past five years, it’s been a challenge to help the regulated community and some in the general public understand why this rule is so important. The RRP rule requires the use of lead-safe work practices, such as laying down plastic, posting warning signs, and cleaning properly after the demolition phase of the work is complete.

Sounds simple enough, right? Well, I’ve seen many instances where the lead dust created from renovation work is spread across a room, floor, or an entire house. This could have been minimized or prevented by using the appropriate type of plastic and/or closing off the work area so the dust was contained.

Since the RRP rule was implemented in 2010, we’ve had a chance to see many companies and individuals renovating the interiors and exteriors of houses, schools, apartment buildings, and hotels, among other residential areas. Unfortunately, the work is almost always done incorrectly. Shown below are examples of what we’ve seen at many work sites, versus what we should be seeing.

Below are some photos taken at EPA lead inspections, showing how those sites can appear after lead-based paint is scraped or disturbed in some way and lead-safe work practices are not used.

2015-8-7 RRP1
When I look at these photos, I’m horrified to know that families with young children possibly lived there, and were not notified of the possible hazards nor kept out of the work area where workers likely tracked the lead-based paint dust and debris throughout the house and yard.

In order to raise the blood-lead level of a small child, it only takes the equivalent of a grain of sugar to enter their bloodstream. This can happen through inhalation – not just by ingestion, which is a common misconception. The paint chips and dust seen here are much larger than a sugar grain, so imagine the danger here.

As I mentioned, the proper use of appropriate work practices can minimize the exposure to lead-based paint. Below are more photos from EPA inspections, showing sites where attempts were made to safely conduct the work. The RRP rule requires renovators to take a course that walks them through the steps to contain a work area, post warning signs, and clean properly. You can see that the residents’ furniture was covered, HEPA vacuums were used for cleaning, and work areas were separated.

2015-8-7 RRP2
By following the RRP rule and using lead-safe work practices, we can help ensure that the health of our families is protected in the Heartland and across the nation. Please check out the links below to learn more.

Helpful EPA Links:

About the Author: Crystal McIntyre is an Environmental Protection Specialist who has worked for EPA for 17 years. She’s currently the Regional Lead Coordinator for the Lead-Based Paint Program. Crystal studied broadcast journalism at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo.

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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"Preventing Lead Poisoning"

Picture this: You live in a gorgeous older row home in Washington D. C. Although it’s a “fixer upper”, you bought it for its unmatched Victorian charm and its unbeatable location (Who doesn’t want to live next to a cupcake shop?). You finally decide it’s time to remodel the kid’s room and update the kitchen, but your spidey-sense is going off because you know that renovating a pre-1978 homes with lead paint can have risks. What’s the next step?

  • Do a search on the internet about EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting rule
  • Look for a contractor, but make sure to ask them if they are EPA Lead-Safe Certified
  • Check with your pediatrician about testing your children for lead

The answer is: All of the above — And don’t forget to share what you learn on your neighborhood list serve!

Learning about Lead-Safe renovations is one of the many actions you can take to prevent lead poisoning during Lead Poisoning Prevention Week this October 24-30, 2010.

This year for Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, consider taking concrete steps to make a difference (or tell a neighbor):

  1. Get Your Home Tested. Ask for a lead inspection if you live in home built before 1978.
  2. Get Your Child Tested. Ask your doctor to test your young children for lead even if they seem healthy.
  3. Get the Facts. Read more information about preventing childhood lead poisoning

Tell us, what are you doing to spread the word or learn more about Lead Poisoning Prevention.

About the author: Christina Wadlington joined EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics in July 2008 and works in the National Program Chemicals Division.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.