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by Alliance Environmental · November 18, 2014

Lead Abatement - The Process and the Involved Risks

Due to the widespread use of lead-based paint in homes built before 1978, lead poisoning is a potential hazard in homes built before this time. When paint chips or flakes off, the home’s residents risk breathing in lead, or accidentally ingesting it. Having hazardous levels of lead in the body can cause serious health problems, especially in children and pregnant women.

By using approved lead abatement procedures you can help reduce the chance of exposure to lead paint by you and family members, but the best bet for non-certified and licensed individuals is always to rely on professionals who understand the risks and have the proper training.

Harmful Effects of Lead

The U.S. government banned the use of lead-based paint in 1978, but it is still present in many older homes and its presence has led to high numbers of lead poisoning. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are roughly 535,000 young children in the U.S. living with harmful levels of lead in their blood. In children, lead can damage major organs, including the brain and kidneys. Even low lead levels are associated with reduced intelligence, behavioral problems and hearing impairment, while high levels can be deadly.

In adults, lead poisoning can cause high blood pressure, mood disorders, joint pain, cognitive decline, headaches and memory loss. Pregnant women with lead poisoning have a higher risk of having a miscarriage or giving birth prematurely.

Lead Abatement Process

There are four different ways to remove lead from homes. These methods include:

  • Enclosure. This process involves covering lead paint surfaces with another material. It’s one of the easier and safer methods of lead abatement since the lead paint does not need to be removed. However, if the new surface deteriorates or is damaged, the lead paint is exposed once again. The materials used to cover the lead paint surfaces should be highly durable. Some of the most effective materials are aluminum, plywood panels and gypsum boards.
  • Replacement. This lead abatement process simply means replacing the affected object altogether. Replacement is typically used for windows and doors.
  • Encapsulation. This process is a cost-effective one, but it doesn’t work well on surfaces that rub together often, such as on doors and windows. Encapsulation involves sealing lead paint surfaces with a coating that bonds to them.
  • Removal. This is a thorough yet highly risky lead abatement process that involves removing all traces of lead-based paint. This process must be done carefully (and preferably by a professional) in order to minimize the amount of lead dust that ends up contaminating the home.

Risks of Lead Removal

Property owners can attempt to deal with the presence of lead-based paint on their own, but there are several risks involved, especially with the paint removal process. Large amounts of lead dust can end up all over the home’s surfaces, as well as on clothes, which only makes the problem worse.

Property owners or workers who are removing lead paint must follow several steps to ensure that the lead abatement process is done safely. Wearing the right protective gear, such as a HEPA respirator and goggles, is crucial in order to prevent exposure to lead dust. The floor and any items left in the work area must also be thoroughly covered. Anyone working in the area must remove dust from their clothes by using a vacuum with a HEPA filter and clean their respirator after each use. The work area also needs to be completely cleaned up at the end of each day.

Hiring a Lead Abatement Company

Instead of taking the risk of creating a bigger problem, property owners should consider using a lead abatement company. Hiring a properly licensed and certified company helps ensure that the job is done correctly and safely, reducing the risk of lead exposure to workers and residents.

Download a free copy of our Asbestos, Lead Paint & Mold eBook to learn how to mitigate the liability risks associated with common environmental threats found in residential properties.

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