What Is Lead Abatement? 11 Things (2021) You Must Know

If you’ve grown up in the last 50 years, you’ve likely heard about all the scary things that lead paint can do to you – which is why lead abatement is so important.

From brain damage to seizures to death, how can something as simple as paint be so dangerous?

It’s like a ghost in your closet!

Looming over you until one day you have the courage to check if it’s there.

If there’s one thing that you should take from this article, it’s that it’s better to check that closet sooner than later.

Lead-based paint is an incredibly toxic substance and acting sooner can help you protect yourself and your family.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about lead abatement.

1. What is lead abatement?

Lead abatement is the activity of reducing levels of lead, particularly in the home environment.

Often, lead abatement is designed to permanently eliminate lead-based paint hazards and reduce or eliminate the incidents of lead poisoning.

This activity may be in the response to requirements by state or local governments.

In the U.S., lead abatement activities are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, which requires individuals and firms that conduct lead-based paint activities, including abatement, to be licensed.

Lead abatement is a specialized set of skills that most local construction contractors typically do not have.

As such, you need to employ specialists who are knowledgeable about lead-based paint removal, inspections, and risk assessments.

2. Why does paint have lead in it?

When lead is added to paint, it helps it to dry more quickly over time and resist moisture.

It also helps it to maintain durability and appearance over time.

Here are the most common pigments used in interior and exterior paint:

bulletLead chromate = “chrome yellow”

bulletLead oxide = “red lead”

bulletLead carbonate = “white lead”

Unfortunately, despite being a natural metal found in the air, water, and soil, lead is toxic to humans.

When inhaled or ingested, it causes serious health problems.

As such, the U.S. government banned consumer use of lead paint in 1978.

3. What are the health risks of lead paint?

Did you know that lead is the leading cause of poisoning in the U.S.?

When lead paint remains in good condition, it typically does not pose a severe risk to human health.

Unfortunately, the surface of lead paints begins to crack over time, and dust and particles are released into the air.

To protect yourself and your family from potential lead poisoning, it is important to remove any lead paint from your home.

Children under the age of six are especially susceptible to lead poisoning.

This is because they are more likely to ingest lead by putting their hands and other objects that have contaminated dust and particles in their mouths.

Additionally, children’s bodies absorb more lead and their brains and nervous systems are more vulnerable to damage as they’re still developing.

Here are some of the health risks of lead paint and what you may begin to see if you or your child is in an environment with lead.

bulletFirst Symptoms

  1. Headaches
  2. Stomachaches
  3. Nausea
  4. Fatigue or irritability
  5. Insomnia
  6. Loss of appetite

bulletSymptoms After That

  1. Brain damage
  2. Kidney damage
  3. Behavioral problems
  4. Hyperactivity
  5. Learning difficulties
  6. Slow growth
  7. Nerve damage
  8. Hearing impairment
  9. Bone marrow disease
  10. Anemia
  11. Fertility issues
  12. Hearing loss
  13. Vision problems
  14. High blood pressure
  15. Kidney damage
  16. Nerve damage
  17. Memory problems
  18. Muscle and joint pain

4. What are the steps involved in lead abatement?

Are you gearing up for lead abatement in your home?

If so, there’s a specific process you must follow to ensure that it’s done properly.

Lead abatement activities are regulated and monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Here’s what you should know.

bulletYou must notify the EPA prior to lead abatement

The lead abatement service firm you work with should notify the EPA of the work they’re planning.

Ideally, the notifications should occur at least five business days before work begins.

However, if emergency lead abatement work is occurring due to the discovery of high blood lead levels in occupants, then the notification can occur the day after the work begins.

Here’s what the notification should include:

  1. Type of notification – either original or updated
  2. The expected start date of lead abatement activities
  3. The expected completion date of lead abatement activities
  4. Name, address, contact numbers, and certification of the firm performing abatement
  5. Property name or project description
  6. Type of structure where lead abatement will be carried out
  7. Location of the lead abatement project including units being worked on and their respective ID number
  8. If applicable, a copy of documentation showing lead abatement emergency order
  9. Name and EPA certification number of the project supervisor
  10. Total square feet to be abated
  11. Description of the lead abatement activities that will be performed
  12. Signature of the representative of the certified firm

bulletYou must consider safety

Always carry out lead abatement practices using protective equipment.

Workers must use proper personal protective equipment per state regulations.

We recommend full-body suits with hood and shoe coverings attached to prevent lead dust contamination.

Personal protective equipment that should be used (at a minimum) include:

  1. Disposable coveralls
  2. Respirator
  3. Goggles
  4. Shoe covers
  5. Gloves

bulletYou must use one of the preferred methods

There are a few different methods you can use for lead abatement.

Here’s what you can choose from:

1. Enclosure:

This is the easiest of all the lead abatement methods.

This occurs when the lead paint is covered with a wall covering.

It is usually done for large surfaces like walls.

2. Replacement:

Replacement occurs when a surface that contains lead paint is entirely removed.

For instance, a window, door, or molding that has lead paint is removed and replaced with a new one.

3. Paint removal:

This option involves completely removing the lead paint.

As it will create lead dust, it should be performed by a certified professional.

4. Encapsulation:

This method covers an affected area and seals it with a specific coating.

It’s an expensive option, and it also cannot be used on all surfaces.

Be sure to talk to your lead abatement contractor if you’re interested in going this route.

5. What do you do if you’re worried you have lead in your home?

If you’re worried you have lead in your home, follow these steps:

bulletFind out the year that your home was built.

In 1978, the U.S. government banned lead-based paints for use in housing built after this time.

If your home was built before 1978, then you may require lead abatement.

Roughly 24 million houses have peeling lead paint and high levels of lead-filled house dust.

bulletGet a paint inspection.

Once you’ve determined if it’s possible that your house could have lead-filled paint, get a paint inspection.

This paint inspection will investigate each painted surface in your home and tell you how much lead is present.

However, it won’t tell you if the paint is dangerous or what to do if it is.

We recommend getting a paint inspection done when you’re buying a home, signing a lease, or planning to renovate.

bulletHave a risk assessment done.

A risk assessment is a review that lets you know if peeling paint and lead dust pose a serious health risk.

You’ll also know the next steps to take to fix it.

This is most helpful when you want to know whether lead-filled paint is causing problems with your family’s health.

bulletTest for lead.

You can test for lead in a few ways: home test kits, environmental lab tests, and licensed lead risk assessors.

Home tests kits will tell you if lead is present, but you won’t know how much lead is present.

You can purchase these at paint stores, hardware stores, and building supply stores.

Environmental lab kits are more expensive than home test kits because you collect the sample yourself and then send it to a lab.

Finally, the licensed risk assessor option allows you to have a trained and licensed professional to check your home for lead.

bulletAvoid contamination.

If your home tests positive for lead-based paint and dust, then you’ll want to take the proper precautions to keep your family safe.

Here’s what you should do.

    1. Keep children away from peeling paint or chewable painted surfaces
    2. Create barriers between play/living areas and lead sources
    3. Regularly wash hands and toys
    4. Mop your floors
    5. Use a wet cloth to wipe down windows
    6. Take your shoes off at the door to prevent tracking soil that contains lead inside the house

6. Can you safely paint over lead in your home?

Yes! Painting over lead paint qualifies as “encapsulation” which is an effective remediation technique.

It’s less expensive and safer than lead paint removal as it doesn’t stir up any lead-containing dust.

Here are some tips you should keep in mind when doing so.

bulletTest the existing paint for lead with a DIY test kit

bulletDon’t chip, scrape, or sand lead paint as this can release lead dust into the air and cause harm to you

bulletTake safety precautions like wearing protective clothing and respiratory protection and keeping the area clean and clear of kids/at-risk adults

bulletDon’t spread or carry the dust away from the worksite — make it your goal to avoid disturbing the existing lead paint as much as possible

bulletUse an encapsulant to prevent it from producing any lead-containing dust

7. What’s the likelihood that my home has lead paint in it?

As noted above, finding out the year that your house was built is the best way to tell if it contains lead-based paint.

Below, we’ve included statistics regarding the likelihood of your home containing lead-based paint and the years it was built.

Home Age and Likelihood of Lead Paint

Year BuiltLikelihood of Containing Lead-based Paint
1960-197724%
1940-195969%
Before 194087%

8. What does lead abatement cost?

If you discover that your home has lead-based paint, take action immediately to protect your family.

Hire a certified lead abatement contractor to either remove, encapsulate, or enclose it.

Regardless of the option you choose, prices typically fall between $8 and $15 per square foot.

Total project costs often average around $10,000; however, they can range between $9,600 and $30,000.

9. What are forbidden methods of removal?

Your lead abatement contractor should never use any of the following methods of removal as these are forbidden.

bulletTorching or open-flame burning

bulletMachine sanding without a HEPA filter

bulletAbrasive blasting

bulletPower washing without trapping water and chips

bulletScraping dry paint

bulletChemically removing the paint

10. What resources does the EPA offer on lead abatement?

As you’re required to notify the EPA of any lead abatement you do, you may wonder what resources they have on the topic.

The EPA has resources for both homeowners and renters on the topic and will even help you find an accredited risk assessment, inspection, or abatement firm.

Visit here for more information.

11. Can you just leave your lead paint untouched?

If the lead paint in your home is in good condition (i.e., no chipping or damage), then you may wonder if you can just leave it untouched.

Do you need to go down the route of lead abatement?

It’s a good question as lead paint isn’t typically harmful until the dust is in the air.

The first thing you should consider is whether you have children under the age of 6 living or visiting the house regularly.

If yes, then we would recommend considering abatement.

Lead paint is most dangerous to children, and you wouldn’t want to endanger their lives in any way.

Also keep in mind that if you do not abate the lead, then you will need to disclose the presence of the paint when you decide to sell the house.

You should also keep an eye on the paint.

If it begins to peel or chip, then you should proceed with a cleanup that is regulated by your regional EPA office.

Final thoughts

When you discover lead paint in your home, you may panic.

Fortunately, there are numerous steps you can take to make your home lead safe.

Contact a lead abatement professional for more information — they can even help you select the right method for your situation.

Additional Resources

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Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.

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