Beginning April 22, the Environmental Protection Agency will require any contractors who might disturb lead paint in homes, schools and child care facilities built before 1978 to be trained and accredited in proper lead safety techniques.
The law holds contractors responsible for following strict protocols to maximize the containment of poisonous lead dust. It also prohibits unsafe practices, including open-torch burning and high-heat guns, and using high-speed equipment -- such as grinders and sanders -- that don't contain a HEPA filter. Prior to the new rule, all contractors were required to do was notify homeowners of the dangers of lead paint.
If ingested by young children, toxins from lead paint chips and dust can lead to irreversible brain and nervous system damage. Projects that could disturb lead paint include remodeling
, interior painting
and exterior painting.
“The new regulations are a big step forward, but homeowners shouldn’t assume they will be comprehensively followed or enforced,” said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List, the nation’s premier provider of consumer reviews
on local service companies. “Homeowners will still need to determine if their contractor is accredited and they’ll need to insist that all work comply with these best practices.”
Compliance with these new requirements will add to contractors’ costs. Some contractors may play into the hands of budget-conscious homeowners and skirt the regulations in order to offer lower prices than their lead safety certified competition, Hicks warned.
“These are costs that homeowners should be willing to bear, and they should be told of it in advance,” Hicks said. “It’s simply not worth the risk of hiring unqualified contractors or working unsafely around lead paint themselves, just to save a few dollars”
Hicks said homeowners could even go a step further than the regulations to ensure the lead threat is eliminated after the remodeling is complete.
“We hope the regulations will one day also require a clearance test after the renovation is complete, but until that day, we encourage homeowners to take that step on their own,” she said. “The clearance test involves collecting and analyzing dust samples once the job is done. The new requirement calls only for a visual inspection, cleaning with a HEPA vacuum and conducting a wipe test. ”
Homeowners wishing to pay for a clearance test should contact a qualified lead abatement specialist. Angie's List makes it easy for homeowners to find certified providers in its search results and encourages companies that earn the designation to highlight that information on their profiles.
There are concerns, however, about the new regulations. Some advocates, contractors and public health officials say there isn’t enough time to get everyone needing certification into compliance by the April 22 deadline, that too few homeowners and contractors know about the new law and that the EPA won’t be able to effectively enforce it. Nearly one in five contractors who work around lead paint is not familiar with the new rules, according to a survey service companies rated on Angie’s List.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that about 37 million housing units contain lead-based paint and 23 million contain significant lead-based paint hazards.
More than half of the respondents to a recent nationwide poll of Angie’s List members say their home was built before 1978. Twenty percent have a pregnant woman or young child living in their home, and 73 percent of the respondents are not aware of the new regulations.
3 tips to keep your family safe from lead poisoning during a renovation project
1.) Ask your contractor if she or he is certified in lead-safe work practices. If you live in a home built before 1978, the answer, very simply, should be, “Yes.” And the contractor should have the documentation to back it up.
2.) Ask, “How will you protect my family from lead dust?” Walk away from any contractor who says it won’t be a problem. A certified contractor should tell you that he or she will follow the new lead-safe work practices, including isolating the area where lead paint will be disturbed with plastic sheeting, posting warning signs, cleaning up thoroughly every day, and avoiding the now-banned removal techniques.
3.) Make sure your house is free of lead dust after the job is done. Lead dust can be invisible and it doesn’t take much to make your child sick. While the new EPA guidelines call for a cleaning verification, which involves doing a visual inspection, cleaning with a HEPA vacuum and a conducting a wipe test with dry and damp cloths, the only way to be sure that the house is safe, even after thorough cleaning, is to have a clearance exam. Clearance testing involves collecting samples and having them analyzed at a lab for lead content. You can find certified lead testing and removal professionals on Angie’s List.
*1,011 Angie’s List members and 511 service companies who potentially work around lead paint, took these polls.
Angie’s List collects consumer reviews on local contractors and doctors in more than 500 service categories. Currently, more than 1 million consumers across the U.S. and Canada rely on Angie’s List to help them make the best hiring decisions. Members get unlimited access to local ratings via Internet or phone, exclusive discounts, the Angie’s List magazine and help from the Angie’s List complaint resolution service. Take a quick tour of Angie’s List and view the latest Angie’s List news.