Home renovators and painters and building occupants can be exposed to lead as a result of many remodeling and renovation activities. The purpose of this pamphlet is to make you aware of the dangers of lead during home renovation, painting and remodeling and how to reduce them. For more complete information, including the state and federal regulations that may apply, please contact our office (Department of Labor Standards, tel. 617-969-7177).

WHAT ARE THE HEALTH EFFECTS OF LEAD?

Lead-based paint is a poison! The dust and chips from lead-based paint are dangerous when swallowed or inhaled. The smallest lead dust particles cannot be seen, but they can get into the body. They are especially dangerous to young children and pregnant women. Lead can affect children's developing nervous system, causing lower IQ and learning disabilities.

Lead poisoning is not just for kids! High lead levels in adults can cause health problems such as high blood pressure, headaches, severe stomach ache, memory problems, kidney damage, irritability, difficulty sleeping, nerve disorders, and muscle or joint pain. A single, very high exposure to lead can cause lead poisoning. Lead can also affect the ability of both women and men to have healthy children. But even if you have no symptoms, lead can be causing you harm. The only way to be sure that you're not being poisoned is to have your blood tested for lead regularly.

WHAT ARE THE HAZARDS OF RENOVATION?

If a home was built before 1978, it likely has lead-based paint. When you work on lead-painted surfaces, you can be exposed to lead. Dry sanding, scraping or blasting can produce large amounts of poisonous dust and chips. Burning lead paint with a torch gives off lead fumes which are especially dangerous. In residences built before 1978 Massachusetts regulations prohibit the use of:

  • Power tools (such as sanders, grinders, etc.) unless they have a HEPA vacuum attachment
  • Open torch burning
  • Heat guns at temperatures 1100°F or above

If you are doing other work, such as replacing windows or doors or tearing down walls, you may also be producing lead dust and chips.

WHO CAN BE POISONED BY THIS WORK?

  • Employers and employees who perform renovations: Breathing or swallowing lead dust (from lead-contaminated food, drink or cigarettes) can cause lead poisoning
  • The occupants of the house: Lead dust and debris that isn't cleaned up can poison the residents of the home, especially young children
  • Your children: If you bring lead-contaminated clothes into your car or home you can poison your family

WHAT PRECAUTIONS SHOULD I TAKE?

Unless you have tested the surfaces and found no lead paint in a house built before 1978, you should always assume that there is lead. The following precautions will help keep you, your employees, the building occupants and your own children safe from lead.

Always keep this mind...

  • no one under the age of 18 may disturb (scrape, sand, etc.) lead paint;
  • have regular blood lead tests and offer them to your employees (our office has a list of occupational health clinics);
  • keep out of the work area all people who are not working - post warning signs;
  • wear a respirator which is approved by NIOSH and has a HEPA filter (the cartridge is purple or pink) - disposable dust masks will not protect you;
  • wear protective clothing, such as full-body coveralls, gloves, and goggles or face shields;
  • never eat, drink or smoke in the work area;
  • always wash your hands and face before you eat, drink or smoke.

When working inside...

  • remove from the work area all food, utensils, furniture and all other household items that can be moved; cover all remaining items and floors with plastic and seal with tape;
  • shut down forced air and air conditioning systems, and tape plastic over the vents and grates;
  • seal off the work area by covering windows and doors with plastic sheets; work in one room at a time.

When working outside...

  • close all doors and windows and cover with plastic;
  • cover the ground with a drop cloth (and tape it to the building) to catch any falling dust and debris; cover any near-by plants, sandboxes, play equipment and outdoor furniture;
  • do not work on windy days;
  • remove work clothes and shoes before entering the home
  • contact the local health department for any local regulations that you should follow.

Before you're finished for the day...

  • clean the work area completely at the end of each day; when the entire job is done, do another clean-up 24 hours later;
  • vacuum all surfaces with a HEPA vacuum only (other vacuums blow lead dust into the air); for more information on HEPA vacuums, call our office;
  • before removing tools and equipment from the work area, clean them with wet methods or a HEPA vacuum;
  • wash your hands and face before leaving the work area, and shower immediately when you get home;
  • put dirty clothes in a sealed plastic bag, and wash work clothes separately from other clothes.

NEW RULES FOR CONTRACTORS

Contractors who perform work that disturbs lead paint in homes, child-care facilities and schools built before 1978 must:

  • Be licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards;
  • Employ a certified supervisor who has taken an approved training course;
  • Follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.

For more information, contact the Department of Labor Standards at (617) 626-6960.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Worker Health & Safety
MA Department of Labor Standards
(617) 969-7177

US Occupational Safety And Health Administration (OSHA)
Braintree (617) 565-6924
Andover (978) 837-4460
Springfield (413) 785-0123

Childhood Lead Poisoning
MA Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
(617) 624-5757 or 1-800-532-9571

Environmental Regulations
MA Department of Environmental Protection
(617) 292-5500