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NAHB Study Shows Remodeling Reduces Lead Levels
A comprehensive study that examines the effects of common remodeling projects in homes with lead paint has been recently completed by the NAHB. See the results of the study, as well as a list of EPA recommendations for lead dust control.
Professional remodeling reduces lead levels in homes and actually improves existing conditions, according to a new study from the NAHB. The peer-reviewed research is the most comprehensive study ever to look at the effects of common remodeling projects in homes with lead paint.
The study measured the effects of activities like wall and ceiling removal, kitchen and bath work, and window replacement in areas which tested positive for lead paint, and found that the remodeling work reduced overall lead levels by more than 30 percent.
"The results confirm the benefit of professional remodeling in homes that contain lead paint," said Remodelors™ Council Chairman Vince Butler, CGR, CAPS, GMB, a remodeler from Clifton, Va. "We know that professional work not only lowers existing lead dust levels, but can reduce future problems by maintaining areas with lead paint to prevent deterioration."
Studying more than 400 samples, an environmental consulting group measured the amount of lead dust on floors and windowsills before and after professional remodeling work in five sites across the country. In every instance, the levels of lead dust decreased except when common professional dust control practices were not used during sanding, like misting the surface with water or connecting powered sanders to vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters.
"I believe we take steps to keep dust levels down anyway when working in our clients' homes," said Butler. "Whether there is lead present or not, professional remodelers do not like to leave a mess."
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has developed a list of renovation and remodeling practices to avoid, and most of those -- like open-flame burning or torching and the use of volatile paint strippers in an enclosed space -- are unusual for remodelers anyway.
"We didn't test most of those practices in our study because we already know to avoid them -- it's common sense," Butler said. "However, the study reinforces our stance that those who must use powered sanding or grinding tools in pre-1978 homes attach a HEPA filter to the exhaust, unless testing proves that lead is not present in the home."
NAHB continues to emphasize the practical methods that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends to avoid creating potential lead dust:
- Mist surfaces with water before sanding or scraping.
- Cover the area under construction with durable protective sheeting (e.g., a plastic or poly tarp).
- Use barriers to keep dust contained to immediate work area.
- Provide an exhaust fan from the work area to help remove dust and other pollutants.
- Use an appropriate waste disposal method for any paints containing lead.
"The safety of our customers, especially our customers' children, is paramount," said Butler. "While most professionals already practice dust control, we want anyone who may work in a pre-1978 home to work as safely as possible. Those concerned about lead paint in their home should get it tested before any remodeling work. And, we continue to recommend that everyone - including homeowners - follow HUD's and EPA's guides when working in a home that may contain lead paint."
Additional information on lead safety can be found by contacting the EPA at 800-484-LEAD or visiting www.epa.gov/lead.