When you purchase an older home, they make you sign a waiver acknowledging the presence of lead paint. It’s paint. Can’t be that dangerous, right? After all, lead is just a piece of metal.
Wrong. Lead is critically poisonous. We usually don’t hear of metals being poisonous – after all, you wrap your food in aluminum all the time. Here we take a look at the science behind why lead paint is dangerous – and thus why you should take precautions when working around it.
What Makes Lead Paint Dangerous
When lead comes in contact with your body – including airborne particles from removing lead paint – the lead travels into your bloodstream.
Once in the bloodstream, the lead travels very quickly , circulating throughout your body in about 45 seconds. As a heavy metal that is non-essential for life, it should not be in your body. This is what happens next:
- Damage to your Brain: Lead has a similar shape as calcium, a common mineral found in the brain. Lead essentially “imitates” calcium in order to get into the brain, thus crossing the blood brain barrier (a blockade which is meant to keep dangerous things away from your brain). Here it can directly interact with the brain. Over time, lead builds up and degrades myelin sheaths around your nerves – which allow quick signals from nerve to nerve. This is the same thing that occurs in people who have multiple sclerosis. Additionally, overall cognitive – or thinking – processes in the brain are decreased as well.
- Damage to Vital Organs: Because lead is able to take the place of calcium, it binds up vital enzymes in your body (something calcium normally does). While calcium would produce the proper effect, lead renders the enzymes useless. Enzymes make your organs function properly so, no enzyme activity, no organ activity. Primarily, this affects the kidneys and can cause kidney failure.
This Is Not Just A Sales Pitch
To make ourselves clear, this is not just what we will call the “WebMD Effect”. We’ve all been there. Once I Googled symptoms for a sore throat. There was a list of 20+ health problems it could be, including, but not limited to, a sore throat, post-nasal drip, strep throat, poisoning, upper respiratory failure, cancer, and a severe case of a whole list of things that cause death. I knew this was rubbish, so I talked to my doctor instead – it was just a sore throat.
What we are saying is that warnings about lead paint are not baseless, and this warning is not something we are exaggerating just for a sales pitch. It seriously can cause lethal harm, and as a leader in dust control, we feel it proper to help educate people on properly taking care of lead paint.
A Few Tips Before You Go About Renovation
Let’s say you have lead paint in your home that you are concerned about. Here are a few tips:
- Lead paint, when undisturbed, generally is not dangerous because the lead is bound up and cannot get into your system.
- When chipping or otherwise coming off can be hazardous, particularly to children and their airways.
- Lead paint, when cut, scraped, removed, or otherwise disturbed is extremely dangerous because the lead is no longer bound to the paint and is in particles small enough for you to breathe in.
Obviously, doing something like hammering a nail into a wall to hang a picture will produce extremely minute lead paint dust. This is in such small amounts that it is likely not going to do any long-term harm. It is when you are doing a renovation that the danger arises.
How To Properly Take Care of Lead Paint
To safely renovate lead paint:
- Wear a NIOSH approved safety mask. There are different ratings based on your exposure level – check out the CDC site here to help you select what kind of mask you need (respirator information is at the bottom of the page).
- Wear OSHA approved eye protection. This usually includes a type of goggle rather than safety glasses, because dust can easily go around safety glasses. Also consider wearing safety clothing, including gloves and shoe covers. Full body suits will protect you from fumes, and shoe covers protect other areas of the property from dust on your shoes.
- Use a containment system. There are portable clean rooms and dust control systems – all of which are better than tarps and plastic to seal off the space you are working in. A proper dust containment system should have: a certified HEPA vacuum and a dust shroud you trust. For every inch of wheel or blade you are using, you should have 25 CFM of air flow in your vacuum. For example, a 7″ grinder should use a 175 CFM or higher HEPA vacuum.
- Use sealing bags to properly close off the debris you pull away.
- Use a HEPA Beater Bar Floor Tool on any carpet in the exposed area.
By adhering to these steps, you can safely renovate lead in your home or on the job, with a surety that you are safe from breathing it in in any dangerous amount. For further instruction, this gentleman provides a step-by-step guide for the actual “how-to” of lead paint removal.
We Provide Equipment for Dealing With Lead Paint
Whether you need to scrape, grind, cut, or otherwise remove some lead paint, we are a specialist in the field for tools that are designed to take it down. All of our tools, when used with a proper vacuum system, meet EPA requirements for lead paint removal. Visit our website to view and purchase HEPA vacuums, cutting shrouds, drilling shrouds, grinding shrouds, sanding tools, and scraping tools.
Additionally, we provide phone support right here in the USA without a wait time. Simply call (435) 637-5885 and push 1 to talk with one of our team members here in Utah.