Removing Lead-Based Paint

Who Knew?

It is disturbing to note that even though the knowledge that lead in paint causes health concerns was available from the early 1900s, lead was used in paint (and continues to be in some cases of special paints) consistently until the end of the 1960s. At that time, a new type of paint was being developed, latex water based paint, which reduced the danger of lead significantly.

Used as a pigment and drying agent in alkyd oil-based paint, lead was considered harmless until studies in the 1940s proved conclusively that lead based paints caused lead poisoning, particularly in children. Although lead-based paint is a major source of lead poisoning for children, it also has a profoundly negative effect upon adults as well. In children, the effects are irreversible. Brain damage, impaired mental function, asthma, lung, liver and kidney problems are but some of the health issues of lead poisoning.

Lead Can Be Found In Myriad Places

Almost any surface can have lead paint present. However, this type of paint was used primarily for window frames, doors, trim, railings, columns, porches and the outside walls of a house. Even if the exterior of the house has been repainted and the lead is covered with lead-free paint, there is still the danger of lead poisoning. A lead inspection can reveal where the lead paint is present.

Since disturbing lead paint with the use of dry sanding or scraping can release large amounts of toxic lead dust into the air, it is necessary to remove lead based paints in a very specific manner. The dust is not always noticeable and can settle onto everything around the vicinity. Little children can get it on their hands, and then put their hands into their mouths. Therefore, to strip the paint, it is important to take precautions to reduce the risk of lead poisoning.

Removal Methods and Precautions

Methods of removing lead paint vary, but the preferred way is wet sanding because it reduces dust. It is important to ensure any residue is cleaned up properly when the job is finished. Using an industrial vacuum is a good way to get the debris picked up. If you are scraping, be sure to collect the debris and clean the area thoroughly. If you are going to use a heat blaster, then it is necessary to use a toxic dust respirator. An electric paint stripper, hot air blower or blowtorch can be used to heat the paint until it blisters, then the paint can be scraped off. However, the use of heat creates fumes so beware of the risk involved.

There are a number of chemical applications available to remove lead-based paints. When using them, wear safety glasses, overalls and gloves to avoid any contact of the paint remover and the skin. Keep the room well ventilated and follow the instructions for use explicitly. Dry sanding generates a lot of dust so if that is the method being used, a toxic dust respirator is necessary. Cover the area with a sheet and keep children and pets far away from the work area. Water blasting is also an option. Once the blasting is finished, it is necessary to pick up all of the scattered chips of paint and flush debris into a safe collection point for disposal.

No matter what method you choose to remove lead based paint, the primary concern should always be safety. Check with your local government for any guidelines they recommend for removal and disposal of lead-based paint debris. It is, after all, hazardous toxic waste.