Public health column: 'Be lead safe this renovation season'
From county health officials:
It is officially summer, a popular time for home renovations. Home renovations can be a complicated undertaking and renovating an older home presents its own unique set of challenges. Specifically, homes built before 1978 could contain lead-based paint and other lead sources which pose a health hazard, especially to children.
“The biggest problem with renovations involving lead is the dust that is produced during sanding, cutting, and demolition. Dust can settle on various surfaces and be inhaled into the lungs or ingested through common hand-to-mouth activities,” said Brenden Bedard, director of Community Health Services for Genesee and Orleans counties.
The first step in any home renovation project is to decide if you are going to hire a contractor or if you are going to “Do-it-yourself.” Please note that, in most cases, landlords are required to hire a professional and cannot do the work themselves. In either case, safe work practices need to occur in order to protect you and your family.
Hiring a contractor: When hiring a contractor, ask about their work practices to minimize lead hazards. Also, you should verify that your contractor is certified by the EPA. The EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule requires contractors working on buildings built before 1978 to be certified by the EPA, use renovators that are properly trained, and follow safe work practices. Finally, make sure that the details of your renovation are clearly laid out and that everyone involved understands what will be happening during setup, renovation, and cleanup
Do-it-yourselfer: If you are a homeowner undertaking a renovation project yourself, you need to be educated on proper work practices to keep you and your family safe from dangerous lead dust.
Consider hiring a certified lead inspector before you begin your project to determine if your home contains any lead in the work area.
Work safely by removing any furniture, rugs, and other household items before you begin the project which could get covered with dust and use plastic covering to seal off doors and vents to prevent the spread of dust outside of your work area.
Use the correct equipment including certified respirators, HEPA vacuum cleaners, protective clothing, etc. to minimize the risk involved.
When the work is finished, clean-up must be done properly. Use of a vacuum cleaner, with a HEPA filter, wet wiping, and wet mopping to remove any dust and debris from all surfaces is important. It is also important to remember that lead dust may not be visible to the naked eye; just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there! Contractors need to use a cleaning verification card to confirm cleaning was done properly. You can also choose to have a lead-dust test performed. Testing should be done by a lead professional. Contact the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD for more details (If using a contractor, lead-dust testing should be discussed before the project begins.).
If done properly, home renovation should be a safe process for you and your children. Of course, don’t forget about your pets! Pets are just as susceptible to the effects of lead and should be considered when planning your project. For more information about home renovation involving lead and for a more complete list of safe work practices, visit the EPA website at https://www.epa.gov/lead. Your local health department can also provide educational materials and advice with regards to lead.
For information about health department services contact:
- Genesee County Health Department at: 344-2580 ext. 5555 or visit its website at www.co.genesee.ny.us/departments/health/index.html.
- Orleans County Health Department at: 589-3278 or check out its website at: www.orleansny.com/publichealth.
- Wyoming County Health Department at: 786-8890 or visit its website at www.wyomingco.net/health/main.html.