What is Lead Paint Abatement?

M. Black

Lead paint abatement is the process of removing lead-based paint from homes and other buildings in a way that minimizes exposure of both occupants and workers. This type of remediation must be managed carefully because exposure risk is increased substantially during renovation. Lead poisoning is irreversible and the effects are life-altering, especially in children, so prevention is extremely important.

Lead paint.
Lead paint.

The major steps in lead paint abatement include containment, dust minimization, and cleanup. Containment requires sealing the area and removing or thoroughly covering everything in it. This also requires workers to cover themselves completely with disposable protective gear that can be removed and disposed of when work is completed so that lead dust is not carried outside of the work area. Dust minimization requires the use of special equipment for removal of the paint and for continual vacuuming of debris using special filters during the work process. Cleanup requires that the remediated area be cleared of all sources of lead and that all debris, equipment, and protective clothing removed from the remediated area be cleaned or disposed of so that lead dust is completely controlled.

Before 1978, most homes were painted with lead paint.
Before 1978, most homes were painted with lead paint.

There is a global concern about lead poisoning, and lead-based paint is second only to gasoline as a source of exposure to this toxic substance. Lead poisoning disrupts the mental and physical development of children and damages many organs of both children and adults. In many countries, lead is still added to paint because it makes it more water-resistant and durable. Even in countries where regulations forbid the use of lead-based paint in residences, lead poisoning is still a major concern. In the United States, for instance, lead-based paint was banned in 1977; however, homes built before 1978 can still contain this paint.

If lead paint is not removed, normal deterioration can lead to the ingestion of lead in normal house dust. Keeping all surfaces clear of dust and debris and vacuuming regularly can help to reduce exposure risk. The removal of lead-based paint is recommended, however, and the procedures for removing lead are difficult. Proper lead paint abatement procedures must be used, or a remediation project can vastly increase the chances of toxic exposure. In fact, lead paint removal is so hazardous that, in the United States, contractors must pass appropriate courses and be certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before they are allowed to perform lead paint abatement.

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