If you renovate homes, on the side or for a living, the federal rules that apply to you will change next week for any project you take on where lead paint lurks. The regulations, put in place by the Environmental Protection Agency, have been in the works for years.
Rebecca L. Morley, executive director of the Columbia-based National Center for Healthy Housing, covers the basics -- and why homeowners should care -- in this Q&A:
Question: What’s required of people renovating homes with lead paint now, and how is that changing?
Answer: Currently, there really aren’t any requirements for people who are renovating older homes, except that they do have to provide some notification to the owners that there may be lead paint there. … But with the new rule, they’ll actually be required to follow a certain set of practices. So certain things are banned: For instance, they can’t belt-sand away old paint, or they can’t use heat guns to remove the paint. ... It just is requiring them not to create any new hazards during the course of the work that they do.
The focus really is, if they’re going to be disturbing paint … that they don’t stir up lead dust and they don’t leave it on the surfaces when they finish the job. ... A common misperception about lead is you have to eat paint chips in order to get poisoned, but lead dust, which is generated from the deterioration of lead-based paint or these renovation activities, [is] the most insidious exposure threat. That’s because the lead dust isn’t visible and just minute amounts of it can result in an exposure — and a serious exposure.
That understanding, which has come to light over the last couple of decades, has really changed our emphasis about how we deal with lead. You can create significant hazards simply by virtue of scraping it off. We want to clean up really well at the end of [renovation] jobs.
Q: How old does a building need to be in order to fall under this regulation?
A. It applies to any housing and/or commercial and public buildings built before 1978. The commercial and public buildings is for child-occupied facilities, so that gets your daycares and schools.
Q: ’78 was when lead paint was banned?
Q: What must renovators do to comply?
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