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Home Renovation: Tips for How To Avoid Lead Dust When Doing Repairs Yourself

by / Friday, 09 November 2018 / Published in Environmental Testing, Healthy Building Inspections & Testing
How To Avoid Lead Dust For DIY Home Renovations

How To Avoid Lead Dust During Home Renovations

Containment, Wet Methods, HEPA Vacuum and Prompt Clean-up are the main work practices to follow in order to reduce exposure to lead dust during renovation. Sticking to these main concepts will help avoid the most common pathways of exposing your family to lead dust. Whether or not the paint in your home contains lead, it is always a good idea to follow these safe work practices as paint may also contain other harmful compounds.  A lead paint inspection can be helpful to know if the paint in your home is lead-based paint (LBP is ≥0.5% lead content by weight).

Sticky mat at entrance/exit to work area can cut down on tracking lead dust into home.

Lead Renovation Containment

Lead abatement is best left for the processionals. There are certifications necessary to be hired to provide lead testing, lead surveys and lead abatement. Side note: In the industrial hygiene industry we generally say “abate” when talking about minerals like lead and asbestos, and “remediate” when it’s a living organism like mold or bacteria. We would also advise to hire trained and certified lead professionals, but many homeowners cannot afford to hire lead experts and lead abatement teams.

When doing repairs yourself, contain the work area so that dust does not escape from the into the rest of the home. A common mistake made by well-meaning do-it-yourself homeowners is to leave belongings where they can be exposed to dust. Here are more tips on how to avoid lead dust by setting up a proper containment area:

  • Completely remove all belongings from work area and clear belongings from entrance/passageways to work area. A well-prepared area will be easier to clean.
  • Cover floors and furniture that cannot be moved with heavy-duty plastic and tape, and seal off doors and heating and cooling system vents. Use 6-mil plastic. Do not be tempted to use the thinner sheet plastic as it tears easily. Take extra care to protect carpet or other porous materials as it is extremely difficult to clean after exposure.
  • Keep children, pregnant women, and pets out of the work area at all times.
  • Remove work clothes carefully, turning inside out, to avoid tracking dust outside work area.
  • Use sticky door mats at entrance/exit to work area to trap dust. (These can be found at most large hardware stores).

Wet Methods to Minimize Dust During Construction

The main source of exposure for lead is in dust – so do your best to AVOID CREATING AIRBORNE DUST in the first place.

  • Mist surfaces before scraping and use wet sanding techniques. Continue to mist while working.
  • Use sanders or grinders that have HEPA vacuum attachments which capture the dust as it is generated.
  • Minimize pounding and hammering – pry and pull instead.
  • Mist before drilling and cutting to reduce dust creation. Foam, such as shaving cream, can be used to capture dust when cutting or drilling. (This avoids dangers of using water with electrical tools.)
  • Score paint before separating building components. This will help give you a cleaner break and helps prevent paint from chipping when a paint seal is broken.

HEPA Vacuum and Prompt Lead Dust Clean-up

  • Daily and after work is complete there should be NO VISIBLE paint chips or dust. Debris needs to be bagged as areas are completed and by the end of the day.
  • Clean up thoroughly by using a HEPA vacuum and wet wiping to clean up dust and debris on surfaces.
  • Mop floors with plenty of rinse water before removing plastic from doors, windows, and vents.
  • Use a wash bucket and a rinse bucket using disposable rags and be sure not to double dip the rags. Work horizontal surfaces from top to floor. Work your way out of the room doing about a three-foot section at a time, once with the soap water and once with the rinse bucket. You must dispose of rags each time for a thorough cleaning.
  • Concrete floors are sometimes better to paint after cleaning as surface is porous and lead dust is sometimes hard to remove. Hardwood floors are better to seal since they are porous and retain lead dust.
  • Dust wipe lead clearance testing is required by CDPH after professional lead abatement, consider taking dust samples to make sure work area has been sufficiently cleaned.

More information:

This blog covers some of the basics of protecting your family from lead dust during DIY home repairs and renovations. There are many more government-provided guidelines and recommendations available:

EPA Renovate Right Pamphlet

CDPH Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch

CDPH Testing your home for lead

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