Many older homes were built or decorated with materials that contain lead. Lead paint is one of the biggest culprits of lead exposure, which can be very dangerous for children and adults alike. Dust contaminated with lead, lead paint chips, and other items that contain lead are likely to be stirred up or created during a home renovation, exposing those who live in that home to lead.
Lead is so dangerous that testing for it is now mandated by law for all children under the age of two and all doctors talk to parents about the risks and possible sources of exposure up until and even after a child is six years old. Pregnant women are also extensively tested for lead exposure and there are even classes led by Public Health Nursing and the Environmental Health Services in order to educate new mothers about possible sources of lead, the dangers of lead exposure, and how to avoid that exposure. If a possible source of lead exposure is identified, it is required by law that the homeowner, renter, landlord, and local environmental protection agency staff work together to remediate the issue.
Why is this such an important issue? Because the effects of lead exposure start early, are permanent, and can be very serious. When renovating homes built before 1978, there is a very high risk of lead dust and paint exposure. How can a family or work crew make sure that the dust, paint, and other sources of lead are contained and that exposure is prevented?
First of all, it is important for a work crew to be certified in working with materials that might contain lead. Almost all tradesmen have to be trained and certified in order to be licensed. There are then three practices that can prevent contamination.
First, the work area should be contained. This means preventing unauthorized people from entering the work area, and laying protective sheets across the work area and as a hanging barrier before the work area and the rest of the home.
Second, the crew should attempt to reduce the amount of dust that is created during the renovation. Using vacuums and wetting down the work area helps with this practice. Third is proper cleanup practices, both at the end of the work day and once the renovation is complete.