Renovating homes and buildings built before 1978 always carries the risk of disturbing lead-contaminated items and areas. Nearly 50 million households in the United States contain building materials coated with lead paint. Extended exposure to lead is dangerous, so disturbing it during renovations, repairs, or painting projects requires special certifications for contractors from federal and state agencies.
The Dangers of Lead-Based Paint
Lead is a naturally occurring element that is extremely harmful to human health. People often experience severe lead poisoning symptoms or even death after ingesting or inhaling lead-based paint chips and dust. Lead poisoning disproportionately affects infants and young children. Experts estimate that as many as 500,000 American kids under the age of six are exposed to dangerously high lead levels at any given time.
Lead poisoning has severe long-term consequences and is prevalent among children living in houses built before 1978. Parents living in older homes and apartments must be aware of lead poisoning symptoms in children, which include:
- Cognitive delays
- Behavioral issues
- Chronic headaches
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Metallic taste in the mouth
Long-term exposure in a lead-contaminated environment causes serious health problems in adults as well. Lead poisoning exacerbates existing conditions in adults, including:
- Memory issues
- Mood disorders
- Fertility issues in men and women
- Heart conditions
- High blood pressure
Although it is apparent that exposure to lead causes serious health defects, the dangerous substance was still legal for construction use in the United States until 1978. It wasn’t until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) introduction of the Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule that lead paint was banned for commercial and residential use.
The RRP Rule
After seeing the severe consequences of lead poisoning in children and adults, the EPA finally decided to implement the RRP Rule in 1978. The Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule applies to homes, childcare facilities, and daycare centers built before 1978.
The rule states that any company or contractor working on a renovation, repair, or painting project involving lead-contaminated paint and materials must obtain state agency approval or an EPA certification. Work crews that fail to find certification courses can receive fines of up to $37,500 per day, per infraction. Several construction tasks disturb lead-paint, all requiring individual certifications.
EPA Certifications for Lead Paint Removal and Renovations
Contractors and construction companies working on projects that disturb lead paint must obtain certifications from the EPA and other local or state agencies. There is an array of courses available from accredited training providers, teaching workers and supervisors all the necessary skills required to repair, renovate, or paint lead-contaminated spaces.
Lead Renovator Certification
The RRP rule aims to promote the use of safe practices among contractors during construction projects. Any work that requires lead paint disturbance also requires an initial EPA Lead Renovator Certification. Lead renovators include anyone who disturbs painted or coated surfaces containing lead-based materials (i.e., everyone on your crew). Most often, a lead renovator intends to improve the functions and aesthetics of a home while still maintaining the highest safety standards.
Lead Inspector Certification
Lead inspectors are responsible for determining if lead-based paint is present in a home or building after a disturbance has occurred. EPA Lead Inspector Certification courses teach the proper techniques for testing painted and coated surfaces for the presence of lead.
Lead Abatement Certifications
Lead abatement is the act of reducing or eliminating the presence of lead entirely. Once lead paint is identified, usually, after lead poisoning occurs in a household, EPA-certified lead abatement specialists use specific techniques and safety precautions to remove or encapsulate the existing lead paint. Lead encapsulants are a type of coating that covers current lead-based paints. Lead abatement is the most effective method in making a home or building safe for occupants.
Lead Abatement Supervisor
Contractors overseeing lead removal or encapsulation must obtain an EPA Lead Abatement Supervisor Certification. Lead supervisor training courses show construction crew leaders the correct ways to complete abatement and ensure all protective precautions are implemented throughout the project’s duration. Particular set-up and cleaning procedures help keep dust from the disturbances at a minimum, and a supervisor should maintain these safety standards at all times.
Lead Abatement Worker
Construction workers are also responsible for receiving an EPA Lead Abatement Worker Certification. Worker certification classes teach the proper techniques to remove or encapsulate lead paint safely while still following all necessary safety protocols.
Lead Dust Sampling Technicians
Dust sampling technicians assess homes and buildings for lingering lead left over after an RRP project is completed. During an EPA Lead Dust Sampling Certification course, contractors can learn the skills required to test horizontal surfaces after a disturbance and determine if hazardous levels of lead are still present.
Lead Risk Assessor Certification
Lead poisoning is a severe affliction that predominantly affects children, so it’s crucial to ensure that its presence is reduced or eliminated altogether. Lead risk assessors also test for unsafe lead levels after an RRP disturbance, like lead inspectors and dust sampling technicians. An EPA Lead Risk Assessor Certification course teaches contractors the correct way to test painted or coated surfaces and assess the dangers of prolonged exposure to present levels.
EPA Certification and Refresher Courses for Contractors
Any construction projects that impact areas contaminated with lead-based paint require EPA certifications. Contractors can contact a professional lead training provider to find the appropriate courses applicable to the job at hand. Initial lead training and certification courses are crucial to a safe construction process. These types of training courses teach all the proper techniques to provide a controlled construction environment, minimizing the risk of lead exposure for workers and residents.
Initial EPA-approved lead certifications last five years or less, depending on the state of issuance. If a worker or supervisor has an expired EPA certification, there can be costly consequences. Keep up with all necessary certificates through refresher courses from approved professional training providers.
Contractors working on lead-related renovations and repairs have a responsibility to keep residents safe by extending extra safety precautions and thorough testing before and after the disturbance. Lead paint is a banned substance that is still incredibly common, so it’s critical to complete abatement and other construction processes in a safe and controlled manner. EPA certifications ensure a healthy environment for property owners in the end.