Christine posted on Facebook (6/23/2014):
“What do you do once you find lead paint?? I tested last night and found some deteriorating on the front door jamb and I’m so worried about my 2 year old and 3 month old! I can’t afford to hire a contractor. Would painting over it be enough??”
Here are some thoughts for the “do-it-yourself-er” (DIY):
If you can’t afford to hire a contractor and live in an older lead-painted home:
- Consider getting EPA RRP trained and certified yourself in using lead-safe work practices. This is an 8-hour training (they have some longer ones too) where you will taught how to do things safely – best practices, and the tools and tips of the trade as it were. If you cannot afford a training – contact me, as I might be able to find a trainer who will donate to train you for free.
- Google “EPA RRP” and learn as much as you can. It’s not a substitute for hands-on training taught be a pro with Q&A possible drawing on their experience and that of the other contractors in the training class (yeah, I know, but many contractors these days really do “get it” and can be allies)
- Work Wet: do not dry-sand at all whatever you do – as that is one of the fastest ways to poison a child.
- DO NOT use a heat gun or torch to remove lead paint, as this is also one of the fastest ways to poison a child.
- Consider using a wet chemical stripper (we have a sponsor – Lead-Out that makes one and there are also others on the market.) This will help to contain the lead as you remove it.
- Consider sealing off/ not using lead-painted components or areas of the home until you can make them safe. One Example: front porch has lead? only use the back door until you can afford to take care of the front porch.
- Consider getting doors and other removable moving parts of your home (cabinet drawers, windows, hinges) “dip-stripped” off-site to remove the old lead paint (warning – there will still be lead in the wood-grain of that building component so whatever you do, do not dry sand it – have it prepped to be returned to the home [painted/ sealed, etc.] off-site.
- Simply “Repainting” is not always an appropriate solution. Layers and layers of paint building up on old lead painted surfaces can actually contribute to the problem, increasing the thickness of the moving part and creating more dust on one-side or another. We recommend window and door replacement (including any sill or trim pieces that test positive for lead paint on any layer – if at all possible!) (which is what we did in our home) because then you don’t have to worry about residual lead dust in the building component or wear and tear on new painted surfaces years down the line.
- Clean in a way that actually captures/contains lead dust. Surfactants are required to clean up lead-dust (it’s quite sticky and without them, even repeated efforts will likely fail). Unfortunately for lead clean-up, (but fortunately for the planet in general) a lot of new cleaning agents, especially the natural ones, do not contain surfactants. If you don’t have surfactants the lead dust will likely just be pushed around your surfaces (floors, window sills, etc.) We recommend using a product like Clorox Wipes (or similar) as they both have surfactants (they are actually also bleach free) and they are disposable. You really cannot clean up lead contamination with baby wipes or other substitutes. Technique is also critical and not necessarily initially self-evident: If you need to be as frugal as possible with the wipes (you’ll still typically need to purchase many tubs, in bulk) – wearing gloves – you can fold each in half, and use a virgin section of a wipe only once – in a single pass, in a single direction; you can then fold the contaminated surface in on itself, and turn over, repeat and discard. [Avoid going “brain dead” and wiping back and forth or around—you’ll just “spread the lead”!] So with the right kind of disposable wipes, you can wipe up the surface and not worry about the rag you used to wipe things subsequently contaminating your laundry (which actually happens all the time!) Another alternative is to use regular (like Arm & Hammer) laundry soap in a bucket of warm water to wash toys, surfaces and floors. Laundry soap has the right kind of surfactants in it for picking up lead dust—just make sure to observe the same rules—use disposable cloths, use a virgin section a single time, in a single direction fold it in on itself and once all sections are contaminated – toss it!
- Get your baby tested to see if there has been an exposure.
- Call your city, state or county health department or building department and find out if there is a local lead-hazard remediation program for cleaning up lead-hazards in your home. You might find there is. Grants range from $3,000 to as much as $24,999 to clean up a home where a child lives – regardless of whether or not it is a rental or owner-occupied. There are income limits on these programs, but they are relatively generous as they have a primary goal of protecting children (so you don’t need to be super-poor – but you do need to have your child’s blood tested in order to qualify (but they don’t need to be poisoned for you to qualify!)