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Make Sure Projects Disturbing Paint are Lead-Free

Lead gets into the body when it is swallowed or breathed. Everyone -- especially children -- can swallow lead dust as they eat, play, and perform other ordinary hand-to-mouth activities. You may also breathe in lead dust or fumes while work is being done such as sanding, scraping, brushing, blasting, or otherwise disturbing painted surfaces that contain lead paint. In kids, lead poisoning damages the nervous system and causes developmental and behavioral problems that can affect them for life. In adults, lead poisoning causes health and reproductive problems; pregnant women are especially vulnerable.

When the EPA’s rule on lead-based paint went into effect in 2008 with final provisions in April 2010, homes built prior to 1978 are included; affected are renovation contractors, maintenance workers in multi-family housing, and painters and other specialty trades. Contractors must use lead-safe work practices and follow three simple procedures: contain the work area, minimize dust, and clean up thoroughly. 

Would it surprise you to learn approximately half of all homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint? The likelihood increases with the house’s age. Two out of three homes built between 1940 and 1960 have lead-based paint, along with nine out of ten homes built pre-1940. 

Unfortunately, when renovating, most homeowners remain unaware of the requirements:

  • Renovation firms must be certified under EPA's Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule.
  • Individuals must be trained in lead-safe work practices.
  • Training providers must be accredited by the EPA.

If you plan to do your own renovation, repair, or painting work, the EPA's rule does not cover your project. However, you have the ultimate responsibility for the health and safety of your family and pets. You may want to call the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323) and ask for more information on how to work safely in a home with lead-based paint. However, to be on the safe side and alleviate any worries, consider hiring a professional contractor who will be well-versed on these issues and is properly certified. 

Some states -- including North Carolina -- have their own programs that have been authorized by the EPA; more info is available here:

Writing collaborated by Duane Johns (Advanced Renovations, Inc.) and Ginger Sprinkle @ nine dots branding & marketing company (

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