renovation

Lead Paint: Doing What’s Right

By Jessica Orquina

The first home I owned was built in the late 1800s. When I had it renovated, the contactors talked to me about what they had to do to protect me and their workers from the hazards of lead paint. I was glad to know that the people working on my home were going to be following proper procedures and building codes. Now, I live in a newer building, but I’m also a new mom. I’m concerned about protecting my son from harmful lead paint chips and dust where he plays and learns.

Reputable builders understand the public benefits from their meeting building code and environmental requirements.  They also know it benefits their business, especially when marketing knowledge, skills and reputation to potential customers.

Since I began working at EPA I’ve learned more about the Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule and how it is implemented. This rule is designed to protect children and other vulnerable Americans from the effects of lead paint.

There have always been suspicions about the health hazards caused by lead. It’s now known that lead is a persistent, toxic chemical that builds up in people’s bodies.  Among other problems, it interferes with the development of the nervous system.  That means it’s particularly dangerous to very young children, where it can cause learning and behavioral disorders. As a result, lead was banned from paint in the US in the mid-70s.

For these reasons, the RRP rule requires workers involved with the home renovation business to be trained and certified in work practice standards.  These standards help reduce the health risks from exposure to lead based paint. The rule applies not only to construction workers, but to painters, electricians, plumbers, and anyone else whose work may disturb painted surfaces. Note to do-it-yourselfers: the risks from lead paint dust are just as great in your own work. The rule doesn’t cover you, but you still should follow lead-safe work practices.

My colleagues at EPA work hard to increase compliance with the RRP rule. For example, we provide plain language compliance resources for construction workers and ask people to submit tips and complaints to us. We also work to bring companies, like Lowe’s Home Centers, into compliance after our inspections found their contractors were not using lead-safe work practices.

As a consumer, remember to make sure you’re hiring certified renovators who use the correct work practices. Contractors that are certified under the RRP rule are encouraged to display EPA’s “Lead-Safe” logo on their workers’ uniforms, signs, and website.  Protect yourself by looking for this logo before hiring a home contractor. Whether you’re installing new windows or finishing your basement, using the correct renovating methods will pay dividends to you and your family, and to the next person that rents or buys your house.  If you hire uncertified renovators, it not only creates potential lead paint risks for your family, but reduces the incentive for other renovators to pay the extra cost to comply with the rule. For more information, visit the Renovation, Repair and Painting Program website.

About the author: Jessica Orquina works in the Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education as the social media lead for the agency. Prior to joining EPA, she served as a military and commercial airline pilot. She lives, works, and writes in Washington, DC.

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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Enforcing the Law to Protect Children from Lead Poisoning

Years ago, when I needed to have my house painted, I called local contractors to submit bids for the work. My daughter was four years old at the time, and so I was acutely aware about dangers of lead paint exposure. It can cause a range of health issues, including behavioral disorders, learning disabilities and other serious problems, putting young children at the greatest risk as their nervous systems are still developing. So I paid close attention to the bids to make sure the one I chose would be lead-safe.  In those days, finding a lead-safe contractor wasn’t easy.

But today, it’s easier. Other families shared the same concern I had, prompting the adoption of new regulations for lead safe practices in 2010. EPA is working to protect children from lead poisoning by enforcing these regulations. A case in point: Today we’ve announced a major settlement that requires Lowe’s Home Centers to enact a corporate-wide compliance program to ensure that the contractors it hires to perform work in customers’ homes follow the law and protect children from lead paint exposure. Lowe’s is taking responsibility to police the contractors it hires, which we think sends an important message to renovation companies across the country: Follow the rules on lead-safe practices and make sure the contractors you hire do the same. More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Amigas hablando sobre reparaciones en casas antiguas

Una amiga decidió remodelar su hogar esta primavera. Es una casa espaciosa construida en los años 50 con mucho encanto y muchas cosas por reparar. El año pasado, remodelaron la cocina. Este año, planean expandir las habitaciones de los gemelos para combinarlas en una sola habitación bien grande. Ella había escuchado acerca de los peligros del envenenamiento por el plomo en casas antiguas y los riesgos de renovar casas construidas antes de 1978 que podrían tener pintura a base de plomo. Ella preguntó “¿Qué tengo que hacer para asegurarme que los niños no sean lesionados durante las renovaciones?”

  • ¿Debo buscar en el internet para aprender más acerca de la regulación de EPA sobre las renovaciones, reparaciones y actividades de pintura a base de plomo? O,
  • ¿Debo buscar un contratista, pero debo asegurarme que esté certificado para el manejo seguro del plomo?

Mi respuesta, fue afirmativa en ambos casos.

Le dije que el aprender acerca de las renovaciones seguras para el manejo seguro del plomo es una de las muchas acciones que debe tomar para evitar la exposición de sus niños al dañino polvo de plomo cuando se realicen renovaciones en su hogar.

Es importante contratar solamente a aquellos contratistas que estén entrenados y trabajen para una firma certificada para el manejo seguro de plomo. Desde abril de 2010, EPA requiere que aquellos contratistas que trabajen en hogares construidos antes de 1978 estén debidamente entrenados y trabajen para firmas certificadas para el manejo seguro de plomo. Debido a todo el trabajo realizado en su casa el año pasado, le sugerí que ella siguiera los consejos de EPA sobre la pintura a base de plomo para proteger a su familia.

  1. Realice la prueba en su hogar. Pida una inspección de plomo ya que su casa fue construida antes de 1978.
  2. Realice la prueba en su niño. Pida a su pediatra realizar la prueba de plomo en sus niños pequeños aún si están saludables.
  3. Obtenga los datos. Lea más información acerca de los pasos que debe tomar para prevenir el envenenamiento del plomo en los niños.

¿Está planeando realizar renovaciones en su casa antigua? De ser así, como le dije a mi amiga, asegúrese de exigir que su contratista esté certificado para el manejo seguro del plomo.

Acerca de la autora: Darlene Watford ha trabajado para proteger a los niños del envenenamiento por plomo en la pintura por más de 18 años en la División del Programa Nacional de Sustancias Químicas la Oficina de Prevención de Contaminación y Tóxicos de EPA.

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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An “Aha” Moment – Just a Little Too Late

I’m a mom of four kids living in a house built in 1948 that was way too small for us until we expanded it three years ago. That’s around the time I became involved in outreach on lead poisoning prevention, and drafting outreach materials on EPA’s new rule requiring contractors who renovate pre-1978 housing and schools to be trained in lead-safe work practices and certified by EPA or a state (the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule).

We decided to stay in our house during construction – who has the money to rent a place and pay for the big renovation? Not us! At the time, I teased my contractor, Erik, about the upcoming requirements for renovators. He just laughed and lamented more money he’d have to pay the government. Then he put up big plywood sheets to block the rooms off and to keep dust out. But the plywood didn’t keep the dust out – it was everywhere. At the time, I thought, the new rule says to use plastic sheeting and tape off the rooms to keep dust out. But I didn’t say anything; all I was concerned about was how much longer we’d have to all live cramped in three rooms. I told myself, well, Jack is 10 and the triplets are 7, so their brains are pretty much already developed. But who knows how much exposure they have experienced because of the renovation. Recent studies show that renovation and repair activities are a major source of lead poisoning – from the dust!

Now that I’ve been steeped in the rule and working to get the word out to contractors to get lead-safe trained and certified, I realize that I should have insisted that my own contractor get himself educated about lead. It’s kind of an after-the-fact “aha moment” that leaves you with a real regret. The developmental effects of lead are real and they are irreversible – behavior problems, IQ deficiencies, learning deficits; scary stuff!

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is October 18-24, 2009. Take this opportunity to ask your plumber, electrician, repairman, or renovation contractor five words: Do you work lead-safe? If they stare back at you blankly, point them to our website. I recently found out that Erik is doing another renovation in the neighborhood. I’m going to work on him!

About the author: Sheila Canavan has more than 24 years of federal service, and has worked at EPA for 14 years. She coordinates web content and communications materials on OPPT’s efforts to address lead, mercury, PCBs and asbestos.

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.