Lead paint is hazardous for health. Before 1978, it was a common practice in the United States to add lead to the house paint. Back then, it made a lot of sense to the general public because the addition of lead particles in the paint accelerated dryness, resisted moisture, and gave a fresh look to a home. Such was the fascination with lead paint that America still has nearly 37 million homes and apartments that have lead paint.
As the research on lead intensified, scientists found new evidence that the lead paint was directly responsible for damaging the nervous system, delayed development, and a variety of other health problems.
Lead Paint In Your Home
In 1977, the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned lead paint in commercial buildings and houses. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has enacted strict laws regarding lead paints. According to the law, only a certified EPA agency can remodel a home built before 1978. It means that if you want to do a home renovation on an old building, you should hire a certified company to complete the task.
While lead paint is dangerous to health, it’s also important to remember that a house with lead paint may not pose a problem unless the paint is disturbed. For instance, if you live in a home that doesn’t show visible peeling and chipping of lead paint, you should not worry.
However, if you have a child under six years of age or you get regular visits from young children under six years, lead paint is always a potential health hazard. It is dangerous because little children often rub their hands on walls or scratch the paint with their nails. As a result, the toxic substance sticks to the hand and goes inside the body whenever they put their hands inside the mouth.
How To Remove Lead Paint?
Unlike a regular paint job, lead paint removal requires special precautions. In a typical scenario, there are four steps in the process:
1. Testing for lead paint
2. Preparation to remove the lead paint.
3. Removing the lead paint.
4. Cleaning the work area.
The following are the step-by-step instructions to safely remove the lead paint from any surface of your home.
1. Testing For Lead Paint
The first step is to identify if the paint on your home contains lead elements. You can try different methods to verify the presence of lead.
People often use the D-I-Y test kits available in the market to test lead paints. There are mainly three kits approved by the EPA to use for the lead test. The recommend test kits are: 3M, LeadCheck, and D-Lead. If you want to use these, you can follow detailed instructions on how to use these kits on the accompanying label inside the package.
A significant drawback of using these test kits is their lack of reliability. Since you will likely scrape a layer of paint, the results may get contaminated by the presence of other materials in the paint.
Another testing method used by homeowners is a clinical test of the paint chip. You can call your local public health center and ask them where to send the paint chip for lab testing.
Irrespective of the method used, results may differ widely because most people do not get formal training to take such tests. While it’s possible to test a specific area of the house, you may leave other hard-to-reach surfaces such as rooftops. Overall, the entire process can take some time to complete, especially if you want to remodel or repaint a large area of the house.
A more practical solution is to ask a professional to test for lead paint. These professionals use x-ray fluorescence technology that can detect lead without scraping layers of paint. Besides, they can scan the entire home without leaving anything to chance. We recommended spending a couple of hundred dollars to get the most reliable results. If needed, our environmental consulting agency can help.
2. Preparation To Remove The Lead Paint
Removing lead paint requires a lot of preparation. It is necessary because the dust containing lead can spread throughout the house. If these dust particles settle inside a rug or the sofa cushion, it is almost impossible to remove them at a later stage. Similarly, you will also need to protect yourself from inhaling the dust particles.
Follow these steps to stop the spread of dust particles, secure furniture, and protect yourself:
- Step 1: Control the dust by covering the floor with polythene plastic. You can easily find these plastic sheets at the Home Depot or a local store. The plastic sheet will ensure that the dust does not settle on the surface, and it’s easier to clean afterward. Use duct tape to hold together the plastic sheet and cover edges leading to the wall.
Seal off the entrance and other openings such as doors and windows. It’s better to use only a single door to enter and exit. You can cut the hanging plastic cover in half to move in and out of the workspace space.
Shut all the ventilation system and seal vent opening. Turn off anything used for ventilation such as fan, AC, central heat, and furnaces.
- Step 2: After sealing the work area, it’s time to cover the furniture, carpet, and other furnishings in plastic. If the job seems difficult, try removing everything from the premises. Removing furniture will also help to finish the job quickly when it’s time to clean the work area.
- Step 3: Use protective clothing to save yourself from lead exposure. Always wear a full-sleeved shirt and trousers. You can also use a paper-bootie shoe cover for shoes. To stop yourself from breathing the toxic air, buy an EPA approved protective mask from the market. Never use a paper or a clothing mask as they don’t have filters to prevent dust particles. It’s also important to wear gloves and glasses for maximum protection.
3. Remove The Lead Paint
After preparing the work area, you can easily remove the lead paint from the surface. To remove the lead paint, spray the area with water before scrubbing it. The scrubbing is followed by the sanding procedure, which removes the remaining paint.
- Step 1: It’s easier and safer to spray the area with water. Spraying the room with water ensures that you’re not exposed to dust particles when scrubbing and removing the paint. It may seem awkward at first, but the wet sludge is also easier to clean. While scrubbing, you can continue to spray the surface with water.
- Step 2: Work from top to bottom by scrubbing the wet paint surface. You can use a towel or a HEPA vacuum to remove the sludge and debris regularly. Keep a bucket nearby to dispose of the sludge inside the bucket and remove it later.
If there are lots of flakes inside the sills and floor, you can use a HEPA vacuum hose to remove dust from the crevices. You can also use a screwdriver blade and a wet towel to get rid of excess particles.
Sometimes, you don’t need to remove all the paint from hard to reach areas. If needed, you can remove the loose flaking areas without deep scrapping. Examples of areas where you may consider removing loose flakes include parts of the roof, unexposed areas of the home, uneven surfaces, cracks, and corners.
- Step 3: After removing the paint, it’s time to sand off the paint. Use a sanding sponge or an electric sander to remove the remaining particles of dust. Modern HEPA sanders are suitable for use on wet patches; therefore, never use sanding equipment on a dry surface.
4. Cleaning The Work Area
After led paint removal, start cleaning the work area. First, vacuum the surface with a HEPA approved vacuum cleaner. Secondly, wash the entire surface with a wet cloth. Finally, wash the surface to pick up any leftovers.
- Step 1: After removing the paint, use a vacuum cleaner to remove dust particles. Use an attachment to clean the remaining dust from the corners, window slits, and cracks. Keep wearing your protective clothing throughout the cleaning process. Also, make sure that any remaining dust or paint particles are piled up on the surface so you can remove them easily.
- Step 2: The next step is to wash the surface with water. Don’t use excess water because it may damage the environment. Use a spray bottle instead. Probably, it’s best to do it old style by cleaning the walls and the surface with a cloth and a bucket of the all-cleaner mixture. You can use anything that makes you comfortable. For example, a wet cloth, towel, or even a paper towel will suffice if you can continue to clean and rinse everything properly.
Once done, carefully remove the polythene plastic covers on the floors and other surfaces. Make sure to fold the plastic inwards to keep everything inside the plastic. Get help from others when it’s time to remove the plastic because any remaining water can easily spill on other surfaces inside the home.
Call your local country office to get help with waste disposal. In most circumstances, you can just put the plastic bag inside a sealed bag. Depending on the local laws, you may also need to take the waste to a municipal solid waste site.
- Step 3: After carefully washing the surface, it’s time to use the vacuum once more. At this time, it’s optional to wash the ground. Wait for one hour before using the vacuum the last time.
Hopefully, these guidelines will allow you to remove lead paint from your home. It’s also important to understand that the method of lead paint removal may differ slightly as no two jobs are similar. However, they all follow roughly the same guidelines.
After reading the article, you must have also realized that the process may take multiple days to finish. It’s true because it’s a time-consuming process, which requires a lot of energy and patience. If you’re doing it alone, get help from another adult in the family. If you have children at home, you should let them stay somewhere else while the job gets done.
If it still feels complicated, then it’s better to get advice from an environmental consultant agency that can give you multiple options according to your budget. At WECI, we specialize in many environmental services, one of which is lead paint inspections and testing. Call us today at 540-877-9420 to find out how we can help you!