"Tell me about lead inspections"
Column #897 05/19/2012
On The Level
Q. We have a rental house--originally built before 1950 I'm sure, renovated in 1988--which has never been inspected for lead paint. It is currently unoccupied. I am in the process of trying to understand the ins and outs of the lead paint inspection process. It seems they want you to repaint so there are no chips or flakes before they will inspect, but if an inspection reveals some lead you would presumably have to do some work messing up the painting you did. What light can you shed on this process?
Any house built from 1978 and before is presumed to potentially contain lead based paint. Lead poisoning is especially harmful for children and the developing babies of pregnant women. The long term symptoms of lead damaged children are lifelong. The country as a whole has taken a zero tolerance to it and very specific rules have been developed governing the encapsulating or removing lead paint contaminated materials.
A. The paint was pulled from the market and since you renovated the house ten years after the ban you may have covered it up but in todayís world that might not be good enough. It depends where the lead paint is that makes a difference. If itís on the jambs and sills of windows where opening and closing the window can abrade the paint releasing lead dust thatís a problem. The same goes for door jambs and trim, again itís the dust.
Lead inspections can involve testing swipes for the dust to using a radioactive fueled test gun call an XRF.
Youíll need to get ready for a lead inspection and that basically means cleaning and washing the wood surfaces and floors and making sure every place is accessible. Do any vacuuming with a HEPA or very high quality vacuum. If you donít own one you can probably rent one.
The lead inspector has to be certified by the state so ensure that whomever you call is.
The lead inspector will arrive on site and perform a visual inspection looking for chipping, peeling or degraded surfaces. After the visual inspection is done the inspector will take dust samples from each room using a swipe cloth. The dust samples are then sent to a lab for evaluation. If the samples show that the house meets the state standards a certificate, called a Full Risk Reduction Certificate will be issued to you and one to your renter if you have one
If the house fails and you decide to take measures to make it pass that include removal of lead painted materials you can do it yourself if you are so inclined but go the MDE website and search out just how to handle such materials before you tear into this job. Thereís a lead paint stripper Iíve seen that neutralizes the lead as it strips it. Go to www.franmar.com to see it.
However, if you decide to hire a contractor to do the work you must ensure that the contractor is EPA Certified under the EPA RRP Rule (Renovation, Repair & Painting Rule). The Rule went into effect in April 2010 with some subsequent updates. It does not apply, however to minor maintenance or repair activities affecting less than six square feet of lead-based paint in a room or less than 20 square feet of lead-based paint on the exterior. Window replacement is not minor maintenance or repair. The ďLead: Renovation, Repair and Painting ProgramĒ is located at www.epa.gov/lead .
Certification isnít hard to get and requires attending a one day course and there are education providers all over and easily found with a Google search. Basically the course informs contractors how to handle and clean up after disturbing lead based paint materials. I drive around Annapolis and see contractors routinely improperly handling materials on old structures in town and they donít know they are hazarding themselves and others. You donít scrape, sand or burn lead paint but I see it done all the time.
Right after the RRP Rule went into effect I got a call from a contractor who asked me if I knew about it. I said I did and told him how to get certified. Heíd just lost a window replacement job because he wasnít. The homeowner asked him if he was and when he replied he wasnít he lost out. Enforcement is spotty but brutal. Small contractors can get fined out of business. The most recent edition of the Journal of Light Construction listed a bunch of contractors who got nailed and how much it cost them. Itís meant to send shivers up the spines of those not certified.
I began my first class at the Arnold Senior Center last Tuesday and this was a topic of discussion. Iíll be at the center from 10 AM until 11:30 AM on Tuesdays through June 19th. If youíre interested, join us.
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