Encapsulation vs. Abatement: What’s the Better Long-Term Option?

Lead paint is a hazardous material used in construction and manufacturing for many decades. Finally, in 1978, the United States government decided to ban the substance by introducing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Lead Renovation, Repair, and Repainting Rule (RRP). Since the use of lead paint was so widespread in construction up until the ban in the late 1970s, it’s no surprise that many residences still contain lead-contaminated surfaces.

Lead is a dangerous substance that is incredibly harmful to human health. Residential and commercial properties containing lead-contaminated surfaces such as doors, railings, porches, trim, and other interior elements must remove the lead to keep residents safe. You can either cover the lead paint with specialized encapsulants or cover and remove the lead surfaces entirely using a process called lead abatement. 

The Dangers of Lead-Based Paint

There are millions of homes across America built before 1978 that still contain some level of lead paint. Lead is a naturally occurring element that was often added to paint to help accelerate the drying process. In its early use, people did not understand the risks associated with lead-based paints. Ingesting lead-based paints or inhaling lead dust can be harmful to the human body. Lead poisoning is particularly prevalent in children who are more likely to lick, swallow or inhale a lead-contaminated particle like a paint chip or dust.

Since its inception, humans have become much more aware of the harmful health effects of exposure to lead-based paints. According to the EPA, lead poisoning can affect children and adults in several different ways.

Lead Poisoning in Children

Even the slightest level of lead exposure in children can cause the following physical and behavioral health issues:

  • Behavioral problems
  • Hyperactivity/ADHD
  • Lower IQs and learning disabilities
  • Hearing problems
  • Slowed physical growth
  • Seizures

Lead Poisoning in Pregnant Women

Inhaling or ingesting lead-based pants can pose serious problems for pregnant women. Some symptoms of lead poisoning in pregnant women include:

  • Premature labor
  • Impacts on the fetus’ brain, organs, and nervous system
  • Risk of miscarriage
  • Infertility

Lead Poisoning in Other Adults

Exposure to lead-based paints and particles can also severely impact adults with existing health conditions. Some issues that can easily be exacerbated by lead exposure include:

  • Cardiovascular problems including high blood pressure and hypertension
  • Decreased kidney function
  • Male and female reproduction issues
  • Mood disorders
  • Chronic migraines and headaches

It is quite clear the severity of lead poisoning is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you suspect the presence of lead-based paints in your home, consider working with a lead abatement specialist or utilizing lead paint encapsulants to keep the residents of your household safe. If you’re uncertain about the best choice for your home or commercial property, compare the two lead removal techniques to determine which will be the most effective option in the long-term.

Comparing Lead Encapsulants and Abatement

Encapsulants and abatement are both different methods to help remove lead paint or at least put it out of sight for a while. It’s essential that property owners understand the differences between these two lead removal processes before proceeding with either one. In the end, you might discover that one method is a better option than the other. Let’s take a closer look at a comparison of the two lead removal techniques:

Lead Encapsulants

One method of making problem paint go away is by using lead encapsulants. This process involves painting over existing lead-contaminated surfaces with a specialized material explicitly made to prevent the spread of lead paint chips or particles in an affected space.

The substance used to cover up the affected areas is called an encapsulant. It’s important to note that conventional paints are not the same as an encapsulant. If you’re attempting to cover lead-contaminated elements of your home’s interior, it’s crucial to utilize a special lead encapsulant paint.

Lead encapsulants cover up the lead paint, allowing the affected items to remain unmoved and unharmed while still sealing off dust and paint chips so they can’t come in contact with humans. You can use encapsulants on several surfaces, but they must be dry, clean, and free of mold, mildew, water damage, cracks, and other issues. Lead encapsulants are not recommended for use in the following areas of a building:

  • Areas with heavy foot traffic
  • Surfaces that touch together
  • Badly deteriorated surfaces or items

Lead encapsulants offer several benefits to homeowners who opt to employ the technique. Some of the positive aspects associated with lead encapsulation include:

  • Residents can remain in the residence while the encapsulant is put in place, although they should stay away from open work areas.
  • Some surfaces may not require preparation if lead paint is still entirely intact.
  • Inexpensive compared to abatement
  • Saves on time

While there are some advantages to using lead encapsulants, it is not the best long-term solution since lead encapsulant paints can always chip away and expose the pre-existing lead-contaminated paints. Additionally, encapsulants require annual monitoring, lead inspections from EPA-certified contractors, regular repairs, and maintenance. In the end, although encapsulation is a quick fix, it can create quite a headache for homeowners over time. If you are looking for a permanent method of removing or covering lead, abatement is the recommended alternative.

Lead Abatement

Lead abatement is the process of safely removing or covering up an area affected by lead-based paint. Unlike encapsulants, abatement covers the affected area entirely and permanently, so property owners never have to worry about lead-contaminated surfaces showing through over time. Any lead abatement project that disturbs more than six square feet of surface in an interior room requires a specialized team of EPA-certified lead abatement contractors.

An EPA-certified lead abatement supervisor will oversee the process of lead paint removal. The process requires workers to follow very stringent safety protocols to protect the people living within the residence. It’s crucial that you work with a contractor who strictly employs only EPA-certified lead abatement workers. With the right equipment and proper education, the abatement process can be fast and painless. Property owners prefer the approach of lead abatement to encapsulants because it ensures that all traces of lead-based paint are removed from household surfaces. It is the ultimate method of protection for residential and commercial property owners.

What’s the Best Long-Term Lead Removal Option?

Although lead encapsulants seem like an ideal solution since they are cheap and easy to implement, lead abatement is actually going to be your better option. Lead abatement is a much more significant expense upfront, but in the end, you can be confident that there are absolutely no more lead-contaminated surfaces inside your home.