Lead Paint Removal and Disposal - Alliance
October 5, 2021

Lead Paint Removal and Disposal

Written by Alliance Environmental

Lead paint was the most common type of paint for many years and used heavily in most homes built before 1978 in the United States. However, after the discovery of the dangers of lead it was phased out of household products and building materials. Today, lead still remains in many older buildings and pipes, causing issues for people and water contamination.

While small amounts of lead have a limited effect on the body, it is bio-accumulative, so as more and more builds up in someone’s body, organs and the brain can be damaged. It’s important to minimize contact to lead in any home, and lead paint removal should be considered the moment it starts flaking, or when any renovations are being considered.

Dangers of Lead Paint

Lead paint has a set safe level of exposure limit, but it is extremely low. Initially, the EPA had set the exposure limit to 50 ppb (parts per billion), however, after more research the amount considered safe was lowered to 15ppb, and when children are involved, it’s recommended that concentration should be even lower, or completely removed. One ppb is equivalent to 0.001 milligrams per liter; an extremely low amount.

When exposed to lead via paint chips or water contamination, the body starts to build up levels of lead, as it cannot be processed by the body. The lead gets absorbed into the bloodstream and starts being deposited in organs, or even the brain. Lead poisoning in organs can start causing them to mutate, creating cancers, and cause organ failure. If it starts building up in the brain, it can cause dementia, memory loss, loss of control of the body, widespread body shutdowns, and ultimately death. The problems are exacerbated in children, as their bodies are still developing; lead can stunt the growth of the brain, reducing intelligence and other brain functions, and mutate organ cells, forming cancers.

Lead paint on the walls is not a major threat on its own, but over time, everybody knows that paint can start to chip, even from a simple scratch. These paint chips can get on surfaces in a home, and touching these surfaces can cause lead chips or dust to get into the body. It is when lead paint is disturbed that it becomes highly problematic.

Lead Paint Removal

With such a high risk from lead paint, it’s important that any home or commercial building that has it eventually gets the paint removed. If the surfaces with lead paint aren’t damaged in any way, they have limited risk to humans or animals, but the moment they get damaged (chips, flakes, wearing down) call in the pros.

For building owners and landlords, it’s important to know that in California, they are required to inform current and future tenants of all instances of lead within the building, so that tenants know where to be careful to avoid lead exposure.

Lead paint removal isn’t a simple process, as the act of just scraping lead off the walls can lead to it becoming airborne and spreading through HVAC systems, or getting into the lungs of the paint removal technician. Professional services should be called in for any lead paint removal, as they will have the training, and equipment to deal with the issue, and be able to handle the disposal of the lead paint afterward.

Issues of Lead Leaching and Water Contamination

Another big issue with lead paint is what to do with it after it has been removed from a building. In the past, people may have considered just throwing it out in a landfill; out of sight, out of mind. However, many studies have shown that lead paint being thrown out in landfills will end up as water contamination in nearby water tables. Lead leaching is a large issue around landfills where people have attempted to cheaply dispose of lead paint. Rain over landfills that have lead will eventually cause lead-contaminated water to soak into the water table, and cause water sources for communities to have to deal with decontaminating water. On top of this is the threat such contamination poses to wildlife.

For people concerned about lead leaching in their water, whether through local landfills, or lead paint getting into water supplies, they should consider getting their water tested. Most water tests can cost between $20 to $100, although there may be local programs available for free water testing.

How to Remove Lead Paint Safely

There are multiple methods for removal, but all safety measures must be taken to ensure the safety of those removing the paint and to ensure there is proper containment of the lead.

Wet removal of lead paint is the most common if the area of removal can allow it. With this method, as the lead paint is removed, it must be wet constantly, as this will prevent errant clips, and dust particulates from being kicked into the air. Special tools are designed to be able to wet down the lead paint while removing it safely to storage bags that will be properly disposed of. While the wet method can keep lead under wraps, it’s often still best to isolate the area so unauthorized personnel doesn’t disrupt the process.

Dry removal of lead paint isn’t ideal, but can still be done. In this method, paint is removed through scraping or just complete removal of the paint wall materials. Without water, however, there is a risk of dust and particulates, therefore the entire area needs to be contained.

Drop sheets should be placed over any furniture left in the room, and the removal workers need to be wearing full PPE to protect themselves. Dry methods may also require a negative pressure area to be set up. After working, PPE suits must be vacuumed off to ensure all lead particles have been captured.
Once safely removed from walls, or other places, lead paint should be secured in proper containers, and then taken to the local disposal site. If using a professional abatement service, they will handle all the requirements for proper lead disposal, following local, state, and federal regulations.

The risks of lead paint are great, and removal is an important process to ensure that a building is safe during renovations, or from lead, chips causing health issues in the future. Hiring a professional team is ideal for lead paint removal, as they have the training, expertise, and equipment to do a full safe removal and disposal.

Alliance Environmental is an experienced remediation contractor that has completed thousands of residential lead paint removal and lead abatement projects. Contact Alliance today for a free estimate.

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