“If you own or work on homes built before 1978, we’re asking you to please spend the time and money it takes to be aware of how to identify and safely deal with lead paint,” says Angie’s List Founder Angie Hicks.
Since 1978, the federal government has banned residential use of lead-based paint. But old paint can chip. Also, any project that disturbs old paint – such as painting, remodeling or window installation – can create dust and debris that an infant or child may inhale or ingest. That’s why the Environmental Protection Agency has required, since 2010, that contractors whose work disturbs lead paint be trained and certified in proper safety techniques.
“Do-it-yourself painting projects may seem fun and easy to do, but there are critical safety measures that should be taken in older homes,” she said. ““We can prevent lead poisoning. But it takes effort on all sides.”
Angie’s List, a local services marketplace and consumer review site, has seen progress in safe practices by the home improvement industry in the past few years. But there continue to be discrepancies between what federal law requires regarding lead-safe home improvement practices and what some service providers tell potential customers.
Posing as parents who wanted work to be done in their 2-year-old’s bedroom in a 1920s home, Angie’s List Magazine staff called 150 renovation contractors to ask about proper ways to strip paint or replace windows, window frames and door frames.
- Nearly 11 percent described work practices that might actually result in lead poisoning.
- A similar Angie’s List sting in 2007 showed nearly a third of contractors gave bad advice.
“It’s good to see improvement, but our work shows that homeowners must take matters into their own hands when ensuring the safety of their loved ones,” Hicks said. “Too many homeowners don’t know about the danger or don’t take it seriously. Most home buyers waive their rights to a lead inspection prior to buying homes that probably contain lead.”
Health experts estimate about 500,000 U.S children ages 1 to 5 have elevated lead levels in their blood. Lead paint, estimated to exist in 40 percent of the U.S. housing stock, is considered the most hazardous source of lead for U.S. children.
Even a tiny amount of lead can cause nervous system, kidney, hearing or other damage, as well as development problems. Children age 6 and younger are at special risk because they lack the developed blood-brain barrier that protects older children and adults from more severe effects.
In addition to devoting the October Angie’s List magazine cover story to lead awareness, Hicks’ Living Smartsyndicated news feature, and weekly local television news segment, focuses on lead this week.