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Most homes built prior to 1978 used lead-based paint and if you’re renovating or considering renovating a home built during this time frame, it’s important to understand the health and safety risks associated with lead-based paint and how to properly test and remove lead-based paint from a home being renovated.

Human exposure to lead-based paint is very dangerous, especially to children and pregnant women. Exposure can damage children’s developing brains and nervous systems, causing learning and behavior problems, as well as slowed growth.

The Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule is an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation that requires businesses that disturb lead-based paint in homes built before 1978 to become certified firms with the EPA or an authorized state, and use certified renovators who are trained to follow lead-safe work practices. This rule applies to all firms and individuals  who are paid to perform renovations. While homeowners are not regulated under the RRP Rule, it is strongly recommended that they do hire certified contractors to prevent exposure to the toxic lead dust created by renovations. The EPA does have some tips for DIYers in order to protect them from spreading lead dust around their home if they decide to take on the work themselves.

Hiring RRP certified firms and renovators to perform your renovations are usually well worth your investment. By following RRP, contractors can prevent families from being exposed to the toxic lead dust created by renovations.

Specific compliance measures under the RPP Rule include (but may not be limited to):

  • Signs must be posted that clearly define the work area that contains lead-based paint and warn occupants and anyone not involved in the renovation to stay out of the area. The signs must be posted before beginning the renovation and must remain in the place and readable until the renovation and the post-renovation cleaning verification have been completed.
  • Before beginning the renovation, the work area must be isolated so that no dust or debris leaves the work area while the renovation is being performed. In addition, the firm must maintain the integrity of the containment by ensuring that any plastic or other impermeable materials are not torn or displaced, and take any other steps necessary to ensure that no dust or debris leaves the work area while the renovation is being performed.
  • For interior renovations:
    • All objects must be removed from the work area, including furniture, rugs, and window coverings, or they must be covered with plastic sheeting or other impermeable material with all seams and edges taped or otherwise sealed.
    • All duct openings in the work area must be closed and covered with taped-down plastic sheeting or other impermeable materials.
    • All windows and doors in the work area must be closed. Doors must be covered with plastic sheeting or other impermeable material. Doors used as an entrance to the work area must be covered with plastic sheeting or other impermeable material in a manner that allows workers to pass through while confining dust and debris to the work area.
    • The floor surface, including installed carpet, must be covered with taped-down plastic sheeting or other impermeable materials in the work area 6 feet beyond the perimeter of surfaces undergoing renovation or a sufficient distance to contain the dust, whichever is greater. Floor containment measures may stop at the edge of the vertical barrier when using a vertical containment system consisting of impermeable barriers that extent from the floor to the ceiling and are tightly sealed at joints with the floor, ceiling and walls.
  • For exterior renovations:
    • All the doors and windows within 20 feet of the renovation must be closed. On multi-story buildings, all doors and windows within 20 of the renovation on the same floor as the renovation and all doors and windows on all floors below that are the same horizontal distance from the renovation must be closed.
    • Doors within the work area that will be used while the job is being performed must be covered with plastic sheeting or other impermeable material in a manner that allows workers to pass through while confining dust and debris to the work area.
    • The ground must be covered with plastic sheeting or other disposable impermeable material extending 10 feet beyond the perimeter of surfaces undergoing renovation or a sufficient distance to collect falling paint debris, whichever is greater, unless the property line prevents 10 feet of such ground covering. Ground containment measures may stop at the edge of the vertical barrier when using a vertical containment system.
    • If the renovation will affect surfaces within 10 feet of the property line, the renovation firm must erect vertical containment or equivalent extra precautions in containing the work area to ensure that dust and debris from the renovation does not contaminate adjacent building or adjacent properties.
  • The use of machines designed to remove paint or other surface coatings through high speed operation such as sanding, grinding, power planning, needle gun, abrasive blasting, or sandblasting, are prohibited on unless such machines have shrouds or containment systems and are equipped with a HEPA vacuum attachment to collect dust and debris at the point of generation. Machines must be operated so that no visible dust or release of air occurs outside the shroud or containment system.
  • The waste from renovation activities must be contained to prevent releases of dust and debris before the waste is removed from the work area for storage or disposal. If a chute is used to remove waste from the work area, it must be covered.
  • At the end of each work day and at the end of the renovation, waste that has been collected from renovation activities must be stored under containment, in an enclosure, or behind a barrier that prevents release of dust and debris out of the work area and prevents access to dust and debris.

Remember, these measures are in place to prevent exposure to toxic lead dust. You can read more about the RRP Rule on the EPA’s website here and always check with your federal, state and local lead-based paint regulations before you renovate or hire someone to renovate any home built before 1978.