The other day, a little girl’s doctor told her parents their child’s blood-lead level was elevated. It wasn’t yet at the 10 micrograms per deciliter that is considered dangerous. But at 6 micrograms per deciliter, it was moving in that direction. And her dad freaked out. Why?
The little girl’s dad, who I won’t name so I don’t embarrass and humiliate him, is a carpenter who has been working with salvaged wood on a really cool reconstruction project. And I mean a really cool project. For a environmentally sensitive carpenter, using century-old reclaimed wood to include in a LEED building is as hip as it gets.
However, this dad, who loves his daughter more than life itself, was not using proper lead-safe practices. Suggestions had been made to him and his crew that they take special precautions to avoid spreading toxic lead dust, but nothing was really done about it.
The problem with lead dust is that when ingested, through simple breathing, lead in the blood causes all kinds of problems. For kids, it leads to attention deficit disorder, behavior problems, learning difficulties and, in the most extreme cases, death. In adults it causes high blood pressure, fatigue and loss of sexual drive.
So how did lead get into this old wood? Prior to 1978, lead was added to paint to make it more durable, more colorfast and resistant to rot and pests. What’s not to like? Well, we’ve known for a long, long time that lead causes neurological damage to kids and adults. And so in 1978, it was outlawed in paint for residential construction. But guess what? The old paint in older homes didn’t go away. In some cases it has been covered up non-leaded paint. And that’s fine. But when you go cutting into that wood, sanding it, and otherwise disturbing it, then that lead becomes airborne dust, and becomes a current problem.
And so it came to pass that the carpenter’s daughter had lead in her blood that was likely a result of her dad coming home covered in lead-tainted dust.
From this day forward, the carpenter will take this issue seriously. And the EPA is going to force professional remodelers to likewise take this seriously and it has recently enacted the RRP (Renovation, Repair and Painting) Rule for lead-safe practices on the jobsite. Read about the rule here.
A lot of professional remodelers don’t like this rule because they have to become certified to work on homes where lead is present, and they have to train their crews, and they have to spend a few bucks on protective coveralls, gloves, plastic sheeting, painters tape, and a few other items. And their workers must be trained and must wear all this gear. And that’s certainly a bother.
But at the end of day, when these workers are operating according to the law, none of this lead-tainted paint dust will go home with them to poison their own children. And none of the lead-tainted paint dust will remain to poison the people in the house.
And no one will have to feel the guilt the carpenter must be feeling right now.
To see a training program for workers dealing with lead-tainted paint, click here.