INFORMATION ABOUT LEAD-BASED PAINT
Victoria Paint Works is a leader in ensuring that older homes are converted from lead-based paint to the safer paint’s available today. If you are unsure of the type of paint in your home, give us a call for a free consultation.
Many older homes in Canada may have surfaces that are painted with lead-based paint. Removing or disturbing this paint when you are renovating could expose people in your home to serious health risks. However, you can minimize these risks by following a number of guidelines.
Lead Poisoning: People have known for a long time that exposure to lead can be harmful to your health. Lead poisoning can cause anemia. It can also damage the brain and nervous system, causing learning disabilities.
The risks are greater for children than for adults, because children’s growing bodies absorb lead more easily, and children’s brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to lead’s damaging effects. Even small amounts of dust containing lead are dangerous to infants and children. Lead taken in by pregnant women can also present a danger to the health of unborn children.
If you are concerned about lead exposure, your family doctor can order a simple blood test to measure your blood-lead level. Your doctor may recommend corrective action if the level is elevated.
Lead-based Paint in Homes: The likelihood that your home contains lead-based paint depends on when it was built and painted. Homes built and painted before 1960 probably contain lead-based paint. Homes built and painted between 1960 and 1990 may have small amounts of lead in some of the painted indoor surfaces. Highest amounts of lead were used in exterior paints. There is little concern about lead-based paint in homes built and painted in 1991 or later, because most consumer paints produced in Canada and the U.S. since that time contain no more than background levels of lead (i.e. lead has not been intentionally added). However, some specialty coatings (such as artists’ paints and metal touch-up coatings) can contain higher levels of lead, but if they do, they must be labelled to warn against applying to surfaces with which children and pregnant women might come into contact.
It is not always in your best interest to remove lead-based paint. In some situations, leaving the painted surface alone, (as long as it is not chipping or within the reach of children), is safer than trying to remove it. Covering the painted area with vinyl wallpaper, wallboard or paneling can provide extra safety.
However, lead-based paint in your home is a serious health hazard if it is chipping or flaking, or if it is within the reach of children who might chew on it. In these cases, you should remove the paint following very specific guidelines.
Before You Renovate
There are several ways to find out whether the paint in your home is lead-based. Some independent contractors have special X-ray equipment that can detect lead on paint surfaces.
Another option is to send paint chips to a lab that specializes in analyzing lead in paint. The two organizations that certify labs for this purpose are:
- The Standards Council of Canada (www.scc.ca); and
- The Canadian Association for Laboratory Accreditation (www.cala.ca).
Be sure to contact the lab first, and follow all directions for gathering and sending the paint chips.
Minimizing Your Risks
It is not safe to use sanders, heat guns or blowlamps to remove lead-based paint. These methods create lead-contaminated dust, chips, flakes and fumes that can be breathed in or swallowed.
You should consider hiring an expert to do the job. However, if you decide to do it yourself, use a chemical paint stripper, preferably one with a paste that can be applied with a brush. Chemical paint strippers may contain potentially harmful substances themselves, so always read the warning labels and instructions carefully before each use, and follow these general guidelines:
- Keep children and pregnant women away from the work area.
- Remove furnishings from the work area. Use plastic sheeting to completely cover anything that cannot be moved.
- Isolate the work area by covering doorways and vents with plastic sheeting and tape. This will prevent the spread of paint scrapings to other parts of the house.
- Before starting work, make sure the room is properly ventilated. Set up a fan so it blows air out through an open window. Start by applying paint stripper near the fan and work your way back, so the fumes are always blowing away from you.
- Always wear goggles, gloves, protective clothing and a good quality breathing mask. If you get any paint stripper on your skin or in your eyes, wash it off right away.
- Work for about ten minutes at a time, then take a break outdoors in the fresh air. Leave the work area right away if you have trouble breathing, get a headache, or feel dizzy or sick.
Never eat, drink or smoke while removing paint, and keep anything that might cause a spark or static electricity out of the work area.
- Clean the work area thoroughly at the end of each day. Put paint scrapings and chips in a sealed container marked Hazardous Waste. Then wipe down the work area with a clean damp cloth, and throw the cloth away.
- Do not throw out paint scrapings with the regular trash. Your local municipality can tell you the best way to dispose of old paint scrapings and other hazardous household wastes.