How to identify and safely remove lead paint.
Whatís the problem?
If your house was built before 1980, assume it has some lead-based paint. This is a problem because when you start to remove the paint you risk absorbing the lead through contact with your skin, or from the atmosphere through sanding dust or flakes. It contaminates clothing and furnishings and can lead to lead poisoning. Symptoms of lead poisoning include stomach pains, loss of appetite, weakness and difficulty walking. It can eventually lead to death.
You can test paint for lead content by using sodium sulphite solution (5%). Some paint shops and pharmacies sell the solution. Generally the test is carried out by cutting into the paint exposing the back of the suspect layer and dropping some of the solution onto it. If it turns black it contains lead.
Even if your home has been painted more recently, the paint on the lower layers may contain lead, if they were painted over previously.
If you are employing a painter, they should be aware of the problem and know how to deal with it, but it is a good idea to raise the issue with them.
Note that lead-based paint is only a danger to health if it has deteriorated, for example, if it has started to flake. If it is in good condition, repainting it is a good option rather than trying to remove it. In fact, removing it is likely to increase the risk of exposure from dust and flake.
Removing lead-based paint
If you have to remove lead-based paint, there are specific precautions you must take to protect your health, as well as that of your family and pets.
The best method is by wet sanding - misting painted surfaces with a spray bottle and removing paint using sharp scrapers or wet and dry sandpaper. This keeps the dust to a minimum.
Abrasive blasting is not recommended because of the amount of dust generated. Chemicals can be used for small areas. Dry hand sanding or machine sanding can be done provided the dust is carefully contained. Water blasting for outside is fine provided the flakes are collected and disposed of without contaminating the soil or surrounding area.
Precautions you should take include:
- Taking down the curtains and furniture and covering the carpets with protective covering before removing the paint.
- Keeping other people and pets away while youíre working.
- Using a toxic dust respirator.
- Wearing a hair covering and protective clothing, including gloves and suitable footwear.
- Keeping windows and doors closed if you are working outside, to stop paint dust and flake getting inside.
- Wiping sanded surfaces and then vacuuming. Collect as much of the dust and paint flakes as possible. Contact your local council for advice on where to dispose of it (donít burn it as this releases it into the atmosphere).
- Thoroughly washing your hands and face before eating or drinking.
- Changing out of contaminated clothing before going anywhere else.
Get the latest guidelines for the management of lead-based paint from the.
Storing paint and chemicals
Follow these guidelines for safe storage:
- Keep paint and chemicals, such as turpentine, in a locked dry cupboard.
- Make sure all containers are correctly labelled, closed and sealed.
- Never store poisonous substances in old food containers.
- Do not store large quantities (more than five litres) of flammable liquids (such as petrol and turpentine) inside the house or a garage attached to the house. They should be stored somewhere well away from where people are living.