Before the 1970s, household paint often contained lead. As lead paint ages, it can chip, crumble, or be pulverized into dust. It is important to know how to remove lead paint because exposure to lead-paint dust or chips can cause serious health problems. Children and pregnant women are at higher risk. So, if you live in or own an older home, you need to know how to protect yourself and others. This includes hiring a certified lead abatement contractor, who know how to remove lead paint, if you are doing any kind of renovation.
Getting Started on How To Remove Lead Paint
So how to remove lead paint, you ask? There are many ways to reduce the hazards of lead-based paint — but SOME METHODS OF HOW TO REMOVE LEAD PAINT CAN ACTUALLY INCREASE THE RISK OF LEAD EXPOSURE. It’s important to pick the safest method for removing lead paint; the goal is to reduce the hazards while creating as little lead dust as possible.
How To Remove Lead Paint on Ceilings and Walls
If lead paint on ceilings and walls is in good repair, then painting them or covering them with wallpaper or an encapsulating paint may be all that is needed to keep the lead paint in place. It is far more hazardous when the paint begins to chip or tear apart.
How to remove lead paint when the paint is chipping, peeling, or on a surface, such as, a windowsill or stair rail where children can chew on it? The lead paint (or the painted material) should be covered. Painted surfaces that rub on each other, such as, doors and windows, require special attention to stop the friction. And if the lead paint has been damaged by other problems, such as water damage due to leaks, then the underlying problem should be fixed first.
The number one step on how to remove lead paint? BE CAREFUL! During the removing of lead paint, you might stir up dust or create fumes containing lead. This can be very dangerous for adults, children and pets. Always use a method that creates the least amount of dust and fumes.
You should consider hiring a professional contractor with experience and who knows how to remove lead paint and who works safely. Whether you’re going to do the job yourself or hire somebody, it’s YOUR responsibility to see that the job is done safely.
Here are some safety tips:
– Children and pregnant women must not do any lead paint removal work, and they should stay out of the work area until cleanup is complete. (See “Clean-Up” section.) If you’re not sure you can clean up every day, arrangements for temporary living quarters should be made.
– Work in one room at a time, and seal off the work area from the rest of the house, including any heating or ventilation ducts, using heavy plastic sheets (6-mil thick is good).
– EVERYTHING in the room (furniture, rugs, carpets, floors, bedding, drapes, dishware, food, toys, etc.) must be removed, or covered with TWO sheets of plastic (again, heavy, 6-mil plastic) and all the seams taped. Plastic used to cover the floor should be secured to the wall or baseboard with duct tape.
– Workers should wear disposable coveralls, shoes, hair covering, goggles and a respirator approved by NIOSH (the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) or MSHA (the Mine Safety and Health Administration). Approved respirators will have an approval number on them, ( i.e., TC-21C-xxx). Only HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) respirators will filter lead dust and fumes. Simple paper or fabric dust masks will NOT protect a worker from lead dust.
– To avoid ingesting lead, workers should not eat, drink or smoke on the job.
– Workers need to clean up carefully. Before leaving the work area, they should dispose of their coveralls, and remove the dust from their clothes with a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filtered vacuum cleaner. And workers should shower as soon as they can after work, so they don’t spread lead dust around their homes.
How to Remove Lead Paint
There are several ways to remove lead-based paints:
– Wire brushing or wet hand scraping with the aid of a non-flammable solvent or abrasive compound. Liquid paint removers can be used on small areas, such as windowsills, doors and woodwork. Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels on how to remove lead paint before purchasing and using. It is important for workers to use personal protective equipment, such as gloves, safety glasses and disposable coveralls when using some paint removers.
– Wet hand sanding and/or power sanding with HEPA filters. Only wet hand sanding and/or an electric sander equipped with a HEPA filtered vacuum attachment should be used. Dry hand sanding should never be done.
– Heat stripping, using a low temperature (below 1100 degrees F) heat gun, followed by hand scraping. Heat guns pose a fire hazard, and make lead dust and vapors, so they should be used only by experienced workers wearing respirators.
The following methods of how to remove lead paint are hazardous and in some communities’ illegal, and should NOT be used:
– Open flame burning or torching;
– Machine sanding or grinding without a HEPA attachment;
– Abrasive blasting or sandblasting;
– Power washing without a method to trap water and paint chips.
Exterior work should be done on calm days, and wet-misting or vacuuming should be used to control lead dust and paint chips during removal. The ground around the building should be protected with heavy (6-mil) plastic sheets. The outer edges of the sheeting should be raised to trap dust, debris, and liquid wastes. Wastes should be disposed of properly, as described below.
The most important step in how to remove lead paint is the cleanup. Lead paint removal will generate lead dust and debris. Unless the house is properly cleaned, it will be more hazardous after the work than it was before!
Every day the debris should be misted with water, swept up and placed in double 4-mil or 6- mil plastic bags. Then all surfaces should be wet-dusted and wet-mopped. This step is very important.
When finalizing your approach on how to remove lead paint, a HEPA-equipped vacuum should be used on all surfaces (floors, walls, ceilings, woodwork, carpeting, furniture). DO NOT use a standard household vacuum or shop vacuum, which are not designed or equipped to trap lead dust particles. Then wet-mop hardwood surfaces with a solution containing a heavy-duty household cleaner (automatic dishwasher detergent or a lead-specific detergent). The wet-mopping should be followed by another HEPA vacuuming.
Old rugs and carpets should be replaced, if possible; and all furniture, bedding, rugs, carpets, drapes, etc., that were removed prior to work should be cleaned before being brought back in.
Debris from lead-based paint removal or renovation may be double-bagged and disposed of in limited quantities in household trash if generated by the property owner. Lead debris must never be burned. Liquid wastes, including wash water, must never be dumped onto the ground; waste water should be filtered through a cloth filter before dumping into a sanitary sewer or toilet. The filtered debris can go out with the other trash. The mops and cloths used to clean up lead paint dust and debris should never be used for any other purpose, and should be disposed of when the job is done. This is how to remove lead paint debris effectively.
A Final Word on How to Remove Lead Paint
I hope we have answered your question of how to remove lead paint. It is safest not to undertake lead paint removal on your own. Contact your local health department for additional information or for help in identifying qualified contractors experienced in how to remove lead paint.
For additional information on how to remove lead paint contact the State Health Department.