Lead-Safe Home Improvement
If your home was built before 1978 it may contain lead paint. Homes built before 1950 usually have the highest concentrations of lead paint. Repairing and remodeling painted surfaces in homes built before 1978, if done in an unsafe manner, can be hazardous to children. If lead dust is swallowed or breathed, it can cause lead poisoning, the #1 environmental health problem facing American children today.
Lead poisoning, even at low levels in a child's body, can cause permanent brain damage and negatively affect children's behaviors and their ability to learn. Children younger than 6 years of age and pregnant women are at greatest risk. Protect your family by following safe remodeling procedures - whether you do the work yourself or hire a contractor to do it for you.
The Right Stuff
- Safety glasses and work clothes, gloves, hat and shoes
- Heavy plastic sheets (6 mil thick) and duct tape
- One bucket to wash and one bucket to rinse
- Soap and water
- Spray bottle to mist work surfaces
- Disposable rags or paper towels
- Plastic trash bags (6 mil thick)
- HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuum or a vacuum with a HEPA filter
- An appropriate respirator
- Scraper, power planer with HEPA attachment, or wet sanding sponge
Interior Home Repair / Remodeling
Before You Start
- Seal off work area with sheets of plastic and tape.
- Work in one room at a time. Keep all equipment in that room.
- Keep children and pregnant women out of that room.
- Remove as much furniture as you can from the room. Cover remaining furniture with plastic sheets securely taped in place.
- Cover the floor of the work area with heavy plastic.
- Cover heating vents with plastic sheets securely taped in place.
- Mist surfaces before you scrape or sand.
- Water helps keep lead dust from entering the air.
- Do not sandblast or power wash. This makes clouds of lead dust and debris.
- Attach a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuum to power planers to trap dust. Ordinary shop vacs do not filter lead dust.
- Do not use open flames. Use heat guns to remove paint. (Remember to use a respirator.)
- Do not use paint strippers containing methylene chloride.
- Do not eat, drink, or smoke in the work area while working.
- Avoid tracking dust throughout the house by using a dampened towel or carpet section as a wipe-off mat.
- Clean work area as you go.
- Remove plastic sheeting by rolling or folding inward.
- Wrap construction debris with plastic and tape closed.
- Place trash in heavy plastic bags and place in household garbage (if doing the work yourself).
- Use a household or commercial vacuum with HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter to clean up dust and debris. A HEPA vacuum can be borrowed from the Health Department by calling 225-LEAD.
- Wash floors, walls and other surfaces with soap and water. Rinse thoroughly with clear, cean water.
- Dispose of wash water in a toilet. Never pour wash water on soil or in kitchen or bathroom sink.
- Never burn trash with lead in it.
- Be careful not to track lead dust around your house.
- Change work clothes and shoes at work site.
- Wash work clothes separately from your family's laundry. Run an empty cycle right after this load is done to rinse remaining lead from washer.
- Take a shower and wash your hair as soon as possible. Do not pick up small children before clothes are changed and shower is taken.
Exterior Home Repair / Remodeling
You will need to use the same tools and follow the same safe work methods as for interior home repair and remodeling.
- Perform exterior work in a manner that will prevent leaded waste from coming into contact with the ground or entering the interior of the dwelling.
- Keep all windows and doors of the dwelling closed while work is being done.
- Attach 6 mil plastic to collect waste at the foundation and at the base of the structure being worked on. For 1-story buildings, extend plastic at least 6 feet out from walls. Add an additional 6 feet for each story of the structure. In all cases extend plastic adequately to contain all falling debris.
- Carefully remove all plastic sheeting used to protect surfaces by rolling or folding them inward at the end of each workday.
- Dispose of construction trash in 6 mil plastic bags and tape them shut.
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Lead Poisoning Prevention
Home Environmental Health
City of Milwaukee Health Department
841 N Broadway
Milwaukee, WI 53202