Old buildings are increasingly in need of renovation and improvements. With more contractors entering the industry, it seems that qualified service people are just a phone call away for homeowners, building managers, and businesses. However, old buildings have their pitfalls, from outdated wiring to needing new appliances, but none are more significant than the hazards regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
For these older structures, lead-based paint is one of the most common hazards, but the EPA is increasing their requirements for all contractors, painters, and renovation specialists. Whether the structure is being completely remodeled or the walls are simply stripped of old paint, crews must now adhere to the stricter guidelines and be prepared to educate themselves on the proper procedure for lead paint removal.
Where Is Lead-Based Paint Most Common?
Lead-based paint was commonly used in structures built before 1978. The paint was used both on the exterior of the home in siding, doors, and window trim, but was also frequently used inside the home. Over 75 percent of structures built before 1978 have lead-based paint somewhere in the building.
If the lead-based paint was properly cared for, the lead is likely contained enough to pose minimal risk to inhabitants. However, many homeowners were not familiar with the proper maintenance required and neglected the material, causing the lead to come to the surface. Even small amounts of lead-based paint flaking off of the surface can cause health problems for children.
What Does Lead Do?
It’s well known that lead is a dangerous and toxic substance for children and adults alike, but even small amounts can affect children’s mental and physical development. In children, common symptoms include:
Tiredness and fatigue
Nausea and vomiting
Children are more susceptible to lead poisoning and health problems associated with lead-based paint simply due to their propensity for exploration. Small children are willing to put just about anything in their mouths, and this includes paint chips.
Even adults can be affected by lead poisoning, and while the symptoms are less likely to manifest in adults, they can accidentally ingest lead products when the paint flakes off in very small amounts or is compressed into a fine dust that goes airborne in the home. For adults, symptoms of lead poisoning may manifest as:
High blood pressure
Miscarriage for pregnant women
While the severity of the symptoms will vary from person to person, lead poisoning is something that needs to be addressed by a medical expert as quickly as possible to reduce the chance of long-term damage.
The Increased Enforcement
Currently, regulations stipulate that contractors and renovators must provide information on the dangers of lead-based paint prior to beginning any work on the property. The aim is to educate the public on dangers associated with lead and provide them with information to assess whether or not they are exhibiting lead poisoning symptoms.
In an attempt to further reduce the risk of lead-based paint exposure causing health problems for residents and work crews alike, the EPA requires that every firm performing renovation work becomes certified in safe handling techniques. Whether remodeling an entire structure or stripping old paint from homes, crews should be able to conduct the renovation without exposing themselves to lead-based paint. Failure to become certified may result in a fine.
Once Certified, What’s Expected of the Renovator?
Gaining the certification gives contractors and renovation experts the toolset they need to successfully handle lead-based paint and waste materials throughout the renovation process. Certified renovators will be expected to adhere to all of the guidelines of their training and help other firms and renovation professionals obtain training as well.
Certified renovators oversee the work performed by the rest of the crew, including maintaining proper compliance with new and updated regulations and being on site while work is done on the contaminated area. Renovators should test for lead on all surfaces that will be part of the renovation and contain the mess accordingly.
Proper Containment at All Times
When it comes to reducing lead exposure, the EPA expects that all renovation crews practice proper containment methods at every job site. This includes sealing areas with contaminated paint by closing and covering the doors, floors, and air vents to keep dust from the project in the space.
Once the renovation is complete, the crew must remove all dust and waste materials from the work area. The space must be thoroughly vacuumed and wiped down and inspected by a risk assessor familiar with the unique dangers associated with lead-based paint. Should the space not pass the initial inspection, the renovation crew must clean the area until all traces of lead are removed from the room. Once the risk assessor deems the work area clean, the renovation project is done.
The Purpose of Increased Enforcement
The aim of the EPA’s increased enforcement of lead-based paint regulations is to reduce the risk of lead poisoning both for residents and renovation crews constantly exposed to the hazardous material. While the precautions may seem extensive, the hazards posed by lead-based paint certainly warrant the increased demands and attention. While regulations may vary from state to state, the EPA’s enforcement sets out the minimum requirements for renovation crews across the country.
Good Training is Key
While the EPA provides the training guidelines and provides resources for renovation crews looking to become certified for lead-based paint handling, working with a dedicated training expert can simplify and streamline the process.
Professional training courses through an independent and accredited company will provide renovation firms with the tools and knowledge they need to get the job done right the first time. ZOTA Professional training gives firms of all sizes access to the right training tools and courses taught by experienced local instructors. There’s no need to search a phone book, make time-consuming inquiries, and struggle to find the right course for the business.
ZOTA Professional will help locate the right instructor and course for each firm’s needs, whether the team is getting certified for the first time or wanting a refresher course to stay up to date on rules and regulations.