Lead based paint has been out of production since 1978. Though it is off the retailers shelf it does not mean ill health affects of exposure to lead have been eliminated –according to the EPA it is just beginning. Despite the banning of lead in petroleum products, household products, paint, solder and so forth lead poisoning is still making the rounds as the “next evil” perpetrated on the American public.
Granted the ingestion of lead paint is a health hazard, of that there is little argument. The problem in this case is the implementation of EPA requirements for lead based dust containment which are so broad reaching it makes for much confusion as to what the goal is in the first place. If the goal is to contain lead contaminants then why penalize the contractor but not the homeowner?
The EPA is the governing body that monitors lead issues in the United States. And since there is a fear of children and adults becoming ill from the ingestion of lead the burden has fallen on the American homeowner. The burden is on the homeowner if the homeowner “does the right thing” and hires a lead certified contractor. The reason it is a burden is simply because it costs more to remodel in accordance withe the EPA requirements. Any remodeling job in a targeted home can increase the cost by as much as 10-15%. On a typical room addition of say $40,000 the requirements will cost the homeowner an additional $4000-6000 extra.
According to the EPA any home built before 1978 is a potential lead hazard. It is a concern for the EPA when a targeted home is to be renovated. Renovation means any disturbance of a painted area in a home. Drilling a hole in a wall is considered renovation. A major room renovation is included, as well as a kitchen or bath remodel.
How does this affect the diy home handyman? Let’s say the diy home owner desires to tear out a wall on the back of his targeted home. If I understand the regulations it is quite alright for the owner of the home to tear out walls, scrape and sand at will despite the threat of lead dust filtering throughout the neighborhood. Yet, if the homeowners decide to hire a remodeling pro then all of a sudden the lack of containment of the same lead dust now becomes a “criminal” act subject to serious fines and penalties to the contractor. What the heck is that all about? It sounds to me like a lawyerly game where easy targets and deep pockets get picked.
The other day my 82-year old customer had asked if we could scrape, sand and paint the original cabinets in her century home. When I explained the extra costs associated with EPA requirements for the need for plastic sheets for lead dust containment, vacuum removal, clean up and she became frustrated and expressed her feelings no holds barred —
“What the hell do I care about lead dust at my age? For fifty years I have been refinishing furniture, sanding and scraping the woodwork in my home, painting and patching these walls. I am healthy as a bull. Now the EPA comes along to tell me what to do in my home for my own good. Screw them!”
That is what she said folks, “screw ’em.”
Needless to say she would not pay extra and despite the fact she wanted us to do the work I had no choice. Instead she hired some non-conforming handyman who can do the job in her budget. If you are the homeowner what would you do?
Here is the link to the EPA site. Lead Paint and You