Most people are mindful of the dangers of lead poisoning. But most commercial property owners or landlords do not know what to do if they find a source of lead somewhere on their property. And chances are, if the property was constructed before 1978, there is possibly lead-based paint on the property.
The risk is even higher if the property is from the 1950s. Offices, apartments, banks, schools, and stores are just a handful of the commercial properties that could contain lead and pose a health risk to customers and inhabitants.
Historically, builders used lead-based paint (often the origin of lead contamination) because lead was a popular pigment and drying agent. Whenever the paint deteriorates into dust or chips, the people inside the building are in danger of lead exposure.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) very seriously regulates the process of lead abatement. That means that there are specific steps you should take if you discover lead on your commercial property.
Why Is Lead So Dangerous?
Often there are no symptoms as lead builds up slowly in your bloodstream over months or years. However, even small amounts can cause serious trouble. At first, lead poisoning can be challenging to detect. Signs and symptoms usually do not appear until dangerous amounts have accumulated.
Children younger than six years of age are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, affecting their physical and mental development. Young children can be attracted to paint chips and might try to eat them. Paint flakes are a particular risk factor for schools or daycares and other buildings where children frequent.
Pregnant women are another high-risk group, as the neurotoxin can pass directly into the placenta, putting the mother and child at grave risk of complications. That is why it is crucial to remediate a lead problem when you become aware that one exists.
Steps to Lead Removal
If your commercial building contains lead, it can be concerning. Fortunately, there are five straightforward steps to abate the lead and make it safe.
1. Hire an EPA Certified Company
Many people mistakenly believe that they can attempt to remove the lead themselves or cut corners and don’t do their homework about the company they hire. Lead is particularly nefarious because if you don’t remove it correctly and safely, it can make the problem (and the exposure) spread! That means that only technicians who are EPA certified should handle the remediation. Keep other people away for their safety until the lead problem has been handled.
2. Safety First
As stated, due to the inherent risk involved in lead abatement, only certified technicians should perform it using the proper safety equipment. The appropriate equipment includes disposable coveralls, respirators, goggles, shoe covers, and gloves. The company will also provide you signage and other ways to advise people to avoid the area.
3. Alert the EPA
Before beginning the lead abatement process, the company working on your building should notify the EPA with project-specific information and tell them that they plan to start the work. You can find more details on the National Lead Information Center.
4. Preferred Abatement Methods
There are four different secure ways of dealing with lead paint. Each technique will depend on your unique circumstances, budget, and where the lead is located:
Encapsulation is the process of using a protective coating to form an impermeable seal, therefore trapping the lead paint inside. Lead encapsulation is not a long-term solution as the quality can diminish over time, and it is not optimal for all surfaces. However, it is one of the most inexpensive solutions since you do not need to worry about dust, and it can be painted over once it has been adequately prepped. Encapsulation may not be the best solution for high-traffic zones.
Enclosing an area of lead contamination is a step up in both cost and effort from encapsulation. To accomplish this, you will cover up the lead-contaminated area with a new solid site (imagine that this is like installing a bathtub fitting over the current one to make it look brand new). The commonly used materials are acrylic sheets, aluminum, drywall, fiberboard, paneling, tile, underlayment, and vinyl. Enclosure is also not a permanent lead remediation fix.
A technician can use wet sanding and dust with a HEPA vacuum, or they could use a heat gun on minimum warmth, in combination with damp hand scraping. Chemical strippers can be applied by hand or with a spray gun and remain in place for five minutes to 48 hours. However, you will need to understand the hazards associated with chemical strippers as some strippers can cause fires, and some can leave residues behind.
Replacing a contaminated zone with lead involves replacing it with a new product or structure and is the only way to eradicate the threat of lead.
5. Unsafe Abatement Methods
There are several risky or prohibited abatement methods that you should avoid if you find lead on your property. These include dry scraping the paint. That would cause lead dust to fly in the air. Another approach to avoid is sanding the paint without a HEPA vacuum, sandblasting the surface, or attempting to spray it with a high-pressure washer. During any abatement process, you should ensure that you completely understand the options, EPA rules, safety procedures and hire a certified abatement worker. That will ensure everyone on site will remain as safe as possible during the abatement process.