Every contractor knows about the new regulations that have been put into effect by the U.S. EPA regarding safe work practices with lead-based paint. It has been talked about extensively in the trades for the last 3 years. It is possible, however, that consumers may not know much about it, although most have certainly heard about it in some way or another. Below are some details you as a homeowner, renter or landlord should know.
Homes built prior to 1978 may contain lead-based paint. The percentages break down to: 86% of homes built prior to 1940; 66% of homes built between 1940-1959; 25% of homes built between 1960-1978. Lead paint was banned in 1978, so theoretically it could be in homes built as late as the early 1980s, but officially the regulations only apply to homes built before 1978.
Lead poisoning is especially harmful for children and woman who are pregnant. Children can suffer from damage to the brain and central nervous system; it can cause decreased intelligence and learning disabilities, as well as behavioral problems. The damage can be irreversible. An unborn baby can suffer from birth defects.
Lead poisoning is also harmful for adults. Symptoms of lead poisoning in adults include high blood pressure, loss of sex drive and/or capability, and fatigue. Other symptoms can include headache, stomach ache, irritability, general fatigue, loss of appetite, and joint and/or muscle pain.
Lead poisoning is especially common in urban areas. The soil around a home in a major city is often contaminated with lead.
To be honest, as a contractor I’ve gone back and forth on how seriously I’ve taken this issue in the past. I’m convinced that an awful lot of what is required by some municipalities is for generating revenue. I also have a problem with the government telling people they need a permit for everything under the sun (replacing a light fixture or water heater, for example). With that said, I don’t think lead containment is pointless. I’ve read about the affects of lead poisoning, and as a parent of (how many now?)… 5 children, I take very seriously my responsibility to my family and my customers to ensure that I don’t endanger them. The more I research how building materials and the process of building and/or remodeling can affect health, the more concerned I become about doing things in a way to limit potential dangers for everyone involved. Will it affect the price of a project? It may, even significantly at times. May it also affect a company’s bottom line? It could, certainly when you factor in licensing requirements, increased management and administrative responsibilities, etc. But either way, I’ve determined that it’s important enough to follow through and do what’s safest for everyone (including myself and those I work with).
As a consumer, you’ll have to make the same decision. Requiring a contractor to be certified and follow the law will almost certainly mean you’ll pay a little more than if you hired the uncertified contractor who is willing to ignore the law, but isn’t your health and safety worth more than that?