The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Lead Paint Risk to Minot Flood Renovators

Graham Marshall - Thursday, May 24, 2012

We are concerned that a rush to renovate flood-damaged homes after the Souris River breached its banks last year in western North Dakota could have exposed hundreds of home-owners, their children, and professional renovators to harmful levels of toxic lead.

Cases of lead poisoning - particularly impacting on children – can easily occur if old paint is stripped or sanded from older flood-damaged homes without taking precautions.

Homes with old paint in good condition or buried under layers of newer paint are not a big risk.

But the risk of lead-poisoning increases dramatically when old paint is damaged by water, and is then scraped off or sanded.

Work on home renovations following the Souris River floods is particularly risky if children are around the home who might eat the paint chips, crawl on the floor and lick their fingers, or inhale the paint dust.

Even low levels of exposure to toxic lead can cause increased risk of brain damage in children.

The Risk Management Tool Box recommends the following safety precautions be implemented by any person involved in the renovation of flood-damaged older homes in Minot and surrounding townships:

  • Establish if the home is painted with lead-based paints (particularly paints which may have been applied up to 1945, but including paints applied into the early 1970s);
  • If the home is over 25-years old, and multiple layers of paint are present, it is safer to assume that lead-based paints are present;
  • If lead-based paints are present, ensure that ALL children (and pets) are removed from the home environment during renovations;
  • Choose wet-sanding methods or stripping with use of chemicals;
  • Dry-sanding is suitable in combination with extractors and appropriate use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE);
  • Avoid the use of blow-torch methods which will generate lead-vapours;
  • Avoid abrasive blasting methods which generates large volumes of uncontrolled dust;
  • If stripping in-door paint, remove curtains, furniture, and carpets before beginning the job.  After paint removal, wet wipe all surfaces to remove dust and then use a commercial vacuum cleaner fitted with a high efficiency dust filter;
  • If stripping outdoor paint, ensure all windows and doors are closed to prevent contamination inside;
  • Both in-doors and outdoors, ensure to use ground sheets which are large enough to contain all the paint debris;
  • Clean the area around the groundsheet with a vacuum cleaner to collect any other paint debris;
  • Wrap up all paint debris securely and, for small amounts, put out with the household refuse collection;
  • Ensure to dispose of the stripped paint immediately;
  • Do not dispose of the paint debris in your garden (e.g., by burying);
  • If in doubt, check with your local authority;
  • Do not burn paint debris, as large volumes of harmful lead vapours will be released;
  • Keep children and pets away from the work area and make sure they don't eat or play with paint debris;
  • Change out of contaminated overalls (especially if dry sanding) as soon as possible after finishing work;
  • Wash your face and hands carefully before eating food, handling children, or smoking;
  • Wash contaminated clothes separately from other laundered items;
  • Wear a hat or cover your hair (especially when dry sanding) to prevent dust accumulating in the hair;
  • Shower as soon as possible after completing each session of the job;
  • Wear a good-quality, properly-fitted, toxic dust respirator when sanding, or stripping lead-based paint;
  • If using a disposable type dust respirator, only those with double head straps are suitable.  Respirators should meet the requirements of the AS/NZ 1716: 2003 (Respiratory Protective Devices) or similar United States Standard; and
  • Do not eat or smoke while removing paint as the hand-to-mouth contact may increase the risk of eating or inhaling lead paint dust.
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