If you are living in a home or remodeling a house which was built before 1978, the paint used in the home may contain lead. Lead-based paint is also found in stucco or adobe finishes that were applied before 1978. Lead dust can enter through the body by mouth or lungs, and it is very important to take precautions when sanding, removing or scraping old paint from any surface in your home. Lead poisoning can only be detected by a blood test, as the symptoms can be hard to spot. To keep yourself and your family safe during a paint removal project, some safety measures are necessary.
Prepare the area:
Lay down heavy plastic sheeting to protect surfaces (such as the floor and furniture) and to contain any debris. Sanding woodwork, scraping window sills or walls, and removing molding can all release lead particles into the air. Laying down the plastic sheeting will help contain the particles to your work area.
Remove any toys, drapes, curtains, rugs and movable furniture from the work area before you begin.
To protect yourself from ingesting lead contaminated dust particles, wear a paper mask while working and do not eat, drink or smoke in the area where you are removing the lead paint.
Once work begins, avoid tracking lead contaminated dust away from the work area by removing your shoes before entering the rest of the house, by wearing coveralls while you work then removing them when you leave the work area, and by not sitting on unprotected areas while you are covered in dust particles.
Clean the work area daily to keep others from disturbing or contacting the lead particles. To keep the contaminated dust under control, use a spray bottle to mist all surfaces before and during sanding them and while scrapping old paint from surfaces.
Clean up when you are done:
When you are done scraping, sanding and removing all the old paint, carefully clean the area and wipe it down with a wet mop or towels. Use water and an all-purpose cleaner to clean up any remaining dust.
Spray the plastic sheeting with a light mist of water and fold it carefully to keep all the dust inside the plastic sheet. Then place the sheet in an air tight bag and seal it prevent it from releasing lead dust into the air or the environment.
Vacuuming the area is not recommended unless the vacuum has HEPA filters and the filters are replaced with new filters once you are done vacuuming. Vacuuming sucks up some of the dust debris but it also releases some of the dust back into the air during operation. Damp cleaning is recommended as opposed to vacuuming.
To further protect yourself and family members from inhaling the lead dust, store and wash your work clothes separately from your family’s regular laundry. It is also a good idea to shower and wash your hair before you hang out with the kids or play with the pets after working.
To learn more about lead removal and lead poisoning, call the National Lead Information Center at 800-424-5323 and request their “how-to” guidelines on working safely with lead-based paint. To find a list of trained professionals who perform lead safe work in your area, check your local directory and call your state’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention branch.