Lead Safe Practices for the Home
Children are most likely to be exposed to lead through remnants of lead paint. Deterioration of lead-based paint found in homes built before 1978 can put young children in direct contact with dangerous levels of lead. If you currently live in an older home and are unsure whether there is lead paint in your residence, you can buy a lead test kit at most local home improvement stores. The safest way to prevent lead poisoning is to completely remove it from your home. The Lead-Based Paint Program ensures that abatement contractors are readily available to the public for safe and effective lead removal.
The Indiana Public Licensing Agency maintains the list of abatement contractors and other licensed lead professionals at the License Express option at:
If complete lead removal isn’t an option, the following tips can help prevent exposure to lead:
- Block off areas to children that have peeling paint. Try to isolate all sources of lead by creating barriers and locking doors. These areas should also be commonly cleaned in order to prevent deteriorating paint from spreading through household dust
- Regularly wash windowsills and mop floors. These areas can accumulate a lot of household dust.
- Regularly wash children’s toys and hands.
- Take off shoes when entering the house. Lead contamination can be brought in through the soil.
- Don’t allow children to play in the bare soil.
- Avoid traditional cosmetics and folk remedies that may contain lead.
- Immediately remove all recalled toys from children. A link to a list of current lead recalls is present on the home page.
- Avoid cooking with containers or pots that may contain lead components.
- Only use cold water from the tap to avoid leeching lead out of the pipes.
Children and pregnant women shouldn’t be present in housing built before 1978 that is undergoing renovation.
Lead Safe Work Practices
Work on a property to remediate lead paint hazards must be carried out using lead safe work practices. These practices are designed to prevent further lead hazards resulting from the work itself. Below are some of the techniques that are recommended to prevent further contamination from lead. The Indiana Lead and Healthy Homes program recommends that projects undergo a Lead Inspection or Lead Hazard Screen prior to the commencement of any work in a pre-1978 home or child occupied facility.
Preparation of the Work Area
- Put up 6 mil plastic on the doors into the work areas as a temporary containment while work is performed.
- Place 6 mil plastic on the floor in all work areas to contain dust and debris.
- Cover belongings in the work area with 6 mil plastic and seal with tape to the floor.
- Seal off ductwork (registers) in work area while doing work.
- Consider getting help with workers that possess EPA/HUD safe work practice training certification or licensing if the amount of deteriorated paint is significant.
- Place signs at all entrance to work areas to keep all those not performing the work out of the work area.
- Repair the component substrate or the surface of the component before applying new paint.
- Complete repairs to control moisture in or on a component.
- Look for and repair the friction or impact areas of the component that is generating lead dust (i.e. window glides, door jambs).
- Repair damaged plaster, drywall, or wood components.
- Remove all loose surface contaminants, wetting surface to minimize dust as you work
- Repair any areas of the component surface or substrate that are not in good condition.
- De-gloss surfaces to be painted using wet sanding or a de-glossing paint.
- Prepare or remove old paint using Lead Safe Work Practices.
- Prepare surface by using an appropriate cleaning agent before applying new paint.
- Use a primer before applying new paint to all surfaces.
Lead Paint Safe Work Practices
- Use wet methods to scrape and sand by misting surfaces before scraping and sanding. Continue to mist while working. Dry scraping or sanding may only be done in very small areas near electrical outlets and light switches and if flat surfaces below these areas are covered with protective sheeting.
- Mist before drilling and cutting to reduce dust creation and keep dust from becoming airborne and spreading beyond the work area. An alternative to using wet methods when working with electrical tools consider the use of foam (such as shaving cream) when cutting or drilling to reduce dust generation.
- If power tools that sand or grind are used, equip them with a HEPA vacuum attachment. Sanders and grinders will release large quantities of dangerous lead dust if not controlled by the use of the HEPA vacuum exhaust equipment.
- Abrasive blasting or sandblasting should be avoided without the proper HEPA exhaust equipment.
- Use a heat gun only if set below 1,100°. It is only recommended for small areas, such as the edge of a door, the top of a window stool, or the friction surface of a window jamb. Open torches, infrared scorchers, electric irons, and heat guns operating above 1,100 ° may cause the release of dangerous lead fumes.
- Scoring paint before separating components helps prevent paint from chipping when a paint seal is broken.
- Prying and pulling apart components and pulling nails create less dust and fewer paint chips than pounding out components. Vise grips may be useful when pulling nails.
- No uncontained hydro blasting or high-pressure washing. Power washing often leaves leaded paint chips and dust on soil and exterior pathways. Pressure washing should be done carefully controlling the resulting paint chips. Paint chips should be caught in a floor covering and cleaned up promptly.
- No stripping lead-based paint with a volatile stripper unless properly ventilated by the circulation of outside air. Methylene chloride paint strippers are not recommended.
To prevent further lead contamination it is vital that the worksite be cleaned thoroughly and often. All visible paint chips and debris created while performing exterior paint work should be cleaned up at the end of each day’s work. Similarly cleaning with a HEPA vacuum and wet cleaning an area should be completed periodically as work progresses. The following methods are recommended for effective control of lead on the job.
Proper Cleaning Methodology
- Wear plastic gloves to clean that can be thrown away after the work is complete to protect yourself from exposure to lead.
- With a gloved hand, use a damp paper towel, or duct tape to pick up larger paint chips. Follow-up by thoroughly vacuuming the areas using a HEPA vacuum. Seal paint chips, paper towels, tape, and vacuum bags in a plastic bag and dispose of safely.
- Wash household surfaces.
- Use any all-purpose, non-abrasive cleaner (ie. dishwasher detergent which has mild phosphates in it) or TSP, a lead-specific detergent. Note, do not make the concentration more than the directions indicate.
- For best results scrub the area well being careful not to remove the intact paint.
- Especially clean areas such as floors, window wells, window sills, and other horizontal surfaces.
- Keep children away when cleaning.
- Keep all cleaners safely away from children.
- Use a spray bottle to keep dust levels down.
- Use a cleaner already in a spray bottle, or put the cleaner into a spray bottle.
- If you must use a bucket, keep the wash water clean using the “two bucket method”.
- Use paper towels.
- Don’t use dish cloths or sponges to clean.
- Use a new paper towel to clean each area.
- Seal the used paper towels and gloves in a plastic bag and throw them out.
- Rinse after cleaning.
- Wash your hands when cleaning is done.
- Pour any wash and rinse water down the toilet, not the sink.
Two Bucket Cleaning Steps
- Prepare a two-sided bucket or two separate buckets, along with a spray bottle with. In 1/2 ounces of cleaning solution with and hot water. In the one side of the bucket place clean rinse water, leaving the other side empty.
- Clear any large debris from the areas to be cleaned and discard in wastebasket.
- Wear rubber gloves (throw them away when work is complete) when using cleaning solution.
- Wet the rag with the sprayer and begin to clean a small area at a time. Wring out excess water in the rag in the empty bucket, rinse in the clean water, and again wring it out into the “empty” side. Continue until the rinse water gets dirty. Place the rag in the trash. Empty both buckets into the toilet and begin again. Keep cleaning the same area until the rinse water stays clean.
- Repeat this cleaning in all areas (floors, window sills and troughs, and other horizontal surfaces) of each room that needs cleaning.
- When using a mop instead of rags, follow the same method – throwing away the mop head when it gets dirty, and replacing it with a clean one.
- After cleaning is complete be sure to rinse cleaned areas again with clean rinse water to thoroughly remove any soap residue that may be harmful to your children. Dump wastewater down the toilet and flush. Do not flush debris down the toilet.
Where do I Obtain More Information on Lead Safe Work Practices?
Additional information is available by calling the ISDH Lead and Healthy Homes Program at 317.233.1250.
Detailed regulations are available at 410 IAC 32-4 Work practices for abatement activities.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can also provide additional information about lead within the workplace: