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Lead Paint in Homes: What Homeowners Need to Know

A home that was constructed before 1978 may have lead-based paint either on the interior or exterior surfaces. This should not prevent a person from buying an older home, people just need to know what to do, and what not to do. I would recommend that anyone who buys a home built before 1978 learn and follow the guidelines presented in the EPA-HUD publication titled “Lead Safety for Renovation, Repair, and Painting” (RRP) document EPA-740-R-09-002. In the following discussion, I am just presenting some of the high points for what to consider when buying an older home and where to find more information.


But first, a common question I am asked is “What percentage of homes have lead-based paint with regards its age?


EPA’s published information to this answer is:

  • 1960 to 1978 24% of homes

  • 1940 to 1959 69% of homes

  • Before 1940 87% of homes


Completing a Paint Inspection

When someone calls me asking for a lead paint inspection, if the home is older than 1978, I normally suggest that they assume there is lead paint in the home and simply collect dust samples in accordance with a typical HUD clearance test in the windows and on the floors. The samples are analyzed for the concentration of lead per square foot, which can estimate the current health risk before a cleaning maintenance program is established.


An alternative is to hire a consultant that owns an XRF hand-held lead detection device. There are not many people that own this equipment because it is so costly to purchase and operate.


It is hard to locate a person that owns an XRF, so I would start by calling your local health department. Here is a USEPA website that can help, but there may be companies that provide the service that are not listed. https://cfpub.epa.gov/flpp/pub/index.cfm?do=main.firmSearchAbatement


Hiring a RRP Contractor

If a homeowner needs to hire a contractor for some remodeling, it is like any other type of project. You check references and insurance coverage. But regarding the insurance, be sure the company’s coverage includes activities from possibly spreading a lead contaminant from their activities. Be sure to get copies of their certifications and attendance records.


For any contractor that is hired, you should have them provide a copy of their RRP training certificate. This certification is required for;

  • Residential rental property owners/managers

  • General Contractors

  • Special trade contractors, including painters, plumbers, carpenters, and electricians.

Do it yourself activities

Plan out your project from beginning to end. It is a serious health risk to start a remodeling project without knowing how to approach it safely. I tell clients to expect a large effort in preparing an area for the work (to prevent the spread of a contaminate), and then to clean the area after the work is completed. The focus is to prevent the inhalation of dust during the work and then preventing the spread of dust into the home.


To test a surface for lead in the paint, a homeowner can buy a lead test kit, but remember that the kit only tests the outermost layer of paint and the paint underneath may contain lead. If you buy a test kit, I don’t recommend you use the cheapest one because they vary in accuracy. It is best to spend a little money because you are protecting yourself and your family from a health risk.


It would be a great help to a homeowner if they attend the one-day RRP training class. Training providers are listed on the internet by searching for “RRP Training Providers in Ohio” at least 3 will come up. The training meets the EPA and HUD requirements for lead-safe work practices training under the RRP rule.


More information regarding the activities that are covered by this rule can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/lead/renovation-repair-and-painting-program-contractors


The following is a short list of Dos and Don’ts:

  • Don’t remove paint by using an open flame

  • Don’t use a heat gun

  • Don’t create dust without using a HEPA vacuum attachment

  • Don’t dry scrap loose paint

  • Don’t hand sand painted surfaces

  • Don’t use a chemical paint stripper

  • Learn when to use plastic to cover floors or hang on doorways

  • NEVER use a shop vacuum in a home, only use a HEPA vacuum


ODH Risk Assessments and Compliance Orders

If a homeowner has a child that has elevated lead in their blood, the level of effort to address the problem will depend on the concentration. The maximum concentration of lead for an adult is 25 micrograms per decaliter (ug/dl), for a child it is 5 ug/dl. If the concentration of either of these is greater than this threshold, then the State of Ohio will initiate a Risk Assessment on the property and then issue a compliance order to requires lead hazards addressed. They can declare the property cannot be occupied until the work is completed and a clearance evaluation shows the property was safe for occupancy.


A homeowner can sometimes obtain permission to do the work themselves in the home they live in, but they should obtain this permission from the state in writing. Again, I recommend that homeowners learn the RRP manual before they take on a project like this. If the property is a rental unit, then the landlord does not have an option and they have to hire a state licensed, EPA Certified, lead abatement contractor. A list of companies is available at: https://www.epa.gov


Then search for “Lead Certified Abatement Firms.” It will take you to a page that has a lot of options for finding lead certified companies or more information for homeowners


In Conclusion

Dealing with lead paint is not difficult but there are simple ways to safely approach a remodeling project. Also, a homeowner should adopt a simple cleaning schedule during the month or year for window troughs, windowsills, and floors; and a maintenance inspection schedule at looking impact surfaces and for peeling paint. A few hours a year is all it takes to be happy in your home.


Deep Breath is an article that is dedicated to distributing information through the Stark & East Central Ohio BIA newsletter. Hopefully, the information presented here will spark your interest in learning more about a topic that will help your business and clients. If you have any questions or would like to hear about a certain topic, you can reach me at BobBennett@usefarsight.com, I will post some of the questions asked at the end of the next article.


Bob Bennett is the President of Farsight Management, and the President of the Indoor Air Quality Association for North

East Ohio. He has been provided indoor air quality consulting and abatement for the last 20 years to builders, homeowners, insurance companies, and property management companies. You can follow Mr. Bennett on Facebook under Farsight Management; he frequently posts comments on interesting projects and articles of interest. Contact him through his email if you have any questions.

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