lead based paint dust

irun5kMarch 18, 2014

Hi all,

Hopefully I will not get flamed for this post and hopefully it is not off topic... if it is, I apologize, but this seems to be something that any of us living in old homes will have to contend with at some pint.

My neighbor (structure as close as 10 ft away) is using a grinder-type device to remove the lead paint on his home, back to bare wood. Our homes are all around 80 yrs old. I don't necessarily see dust going everywhere but at the same time it isn't being reclaimed and it has to be going somewhere.

We have a six year old and also my wife is pregnant and we already asked the doctor whether we should be concerned and the the reply was "only if you're eating the dust."

OTOH, the painter that did our house recommended that if my wife was pregnant at the time that she relocate while they were scraping off the old paint.

I am wondering what "ground truth" is on this. I am thinking my wife should be tested for lead the next time she goes back to the doc just to be sure.

I would think the neighbor should be more worried, even though he is wearing a respirator, all this stuff is going into his soil and so forth. But I wanted to get your experiences as another data point on realistically what our exposure might be.

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DIY work? The RRP rule doesn't apply but it doesn't make grinding off lead paint any less stupid.

They need to be following this, or using a different method entirely.

Here is a link that might be useful: Renovation, Repair and Painting Program: Do-It-Yourselfers

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 4:04PM
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I wouldn't be happy about it, and if you are friendly with your neighbor, I'd suggest giving him some literature about safer methods. But at the same time I think the risk is relatively low if you're not standing there breathing it in; just keep your windows shut tight, and maybe put a tarp over the yard between your houses. I know neighbors aren't always open to reading pamphlets about lead-safe practices. Is he almost finished or just starting? Can your wife and kid stay with a friend until it's over, or is that impossible? I think once it rains the airborne danger is pretty much over.

A lead test might be a good idea. An iron-rich diet can also help prevent lead absorption.

Good luck and try not to panic!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 11:13PM
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If his lead dust is contaminating your property, you have a good case for a cease & desist order; start shooting video. You can follow up on the C&D with a lawsuit to make him pay for the decontamination process.
His right to strip his paint ends at the property line when it starts to harm you.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 10:08AM
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Check with your local (or state) clean air or environmental organization. Large scale removals like you are describing are often regulated. If so, they could step in and control just how/whether this proceeds and make sure that any further work is done more safely than what you are describing.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 3:05PM
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Thanks guys, this is a DIY. Long term project, has been at it for weeks and at the rate of progress it is going to be a long time yet.

I don't want to be a jerk neighbor if it isn't warranted. Otherwise one thing leads to another and before long everyone is calling code enforcement on everyone and that kind of thing.

OTOH a fence being an inch over a line or watering on the wrong days is one thing, poison control issues are another. I have honestly not seen any evidence of paint chips, dust, etc. on our property yet.

I do think that keeping the windows shut and avoid unnecessary outdoor exposure while he is working are smart things to do for now. Since my wife is already getting lots of blood tests from being pregnant, I'm sure it is a matter of them just ordering a lead screening the next time they draw blood.

I am overly cautious, admittedly, but you hear so much about the dangers of lead paint. I appreciate your comments.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 7:51PM
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I don't think you are being overly cautious, and I have worked in this area for many years. Two things I will point out:

Lead Screening test: First of all, if you do get such a test, what will you do with the results? You can probably detect some level of Pb in most people, so what do you decide is a safe level, and how can you determine -- if she tests positive for Pb -- whether that is a background level or has increased recently due to exposure resulting from your neighbor's activities? You should also be aware that the exposure of young children and developing fetuses to low levels of Pb can be more serious for them in terms of long term deficits than it is for full grown adults.

Exposure on your property: At this point, the exposure you are most likely to get is an invisible one: airborne, very small Pb dust particles. Just because you can't see anything much doesn't mean that you don't have an exposure. You're doing the right thing by keeping the windows shut and spending little time outdoors, but your furnace and normal infiltration are bringing in outside air, and you can also track lead dust into your home on your shoes. And for the long term, you need to be aware that, if your yard is getting gradually contaminated from lead dust, it is not a great place for a child to be playing.

You're being responsible and I am not trying to alarm you, but your concern is warranted. If you are not willing to check into what local codes may govern what the neighbor is doing, or to get him to do this safely, maybe you can at least ask him to call a hiatus for a couple of months until the baby is born.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 8:25PM
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Your neighbor needs to "tent" his work and properly dispose of his hazardous waste. You're not being a jerk by insisting he do so. He can switch methods if he chooses.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 10:51AM
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There are a number of issues here. The first is the health of you, your wife, young child, and unborn child. But there is also the issue of neighbor relations. Could you 'do stuff to him' to make him comply? Undoubtably.
There are grinders made with attached vacuums which are very good and in fact made exactly for this kind of work and for the purpose of containing lead paint dust, I used one a few years ago.
Consider the costs both legal and social of 'doing stuff to him' and consider the cost of gifting him with such a vacuum.
Should it be his responsibility? Sure. But are you trying to win, or are you trying for safety?
Our system in general is adversarial, but it is amazing sometimes what taking the first step can do.

This post was edited by lucille on Fri, Mar 21, 14 at 11:07

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 11:04AM
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Have your lawyer rat him out to the authorities. After they leave, you can go over and "commiserate" at the government overreach. Maybe offer a suggestion or a tool.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 9:43AM
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The problem with ratting is that unless there are particular local rules, it is not illegal for homeowners to do their own work as far as the removal of paint.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 7:01AM
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The removed paint contains lead which is hazardous waste. Removing it improperly and contaminating your neighbor's property is illegal everywhere.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 7:10AM
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Please cite the law you reference. I understand that the paint has lead, but for civil remedies one would need proof of contamination.
Perhaps I have not kept up, but I was unaware of any federal legislation 'illegal everywhere' that prohibits homeowners from removing paint from their own homes.
My point is that I believe the neighbor's action unless there are some local statutes, is not 'rattable'.

Which is why I made my previous post saying that gifting the neighbor a vacuum made for such work (or even a vacuum/grinder set), may be the easiest fastest way to solve the problem.

This post was edited by lucille on Thu, Mar 27, 14 at 9:20

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 7:20AM
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As pointed out above, check the rules and regulations in your jurisdiction.

Maryland, for instance, bans exactly what your neighbour is doing--grinding off lead-based paint. (Unless, presumably, all the paint on the house is pre-1978.) And anyone removing lead paint has to be licensed.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 1:20PM
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You are correct that there is no uniform federal law governing what individuals may do regarding lead removal on their own homes. However -- similar to the example that worthy provided above -- there are many, many state and local environmental authorities that restrict lead paint removal by untrained/uncertified individuals, especially when it involves home exteriors, since it can involuntarily expose others than just the homeowner's family, and because it can directly contaminate the environment. Even if a municipal area does not have explicit lead regulations, this type of problem can often be addressed through existing hazardous waste regulations.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 2:09PM
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What did the health department say when you called?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 2:17PM
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Worthy, I did find some Maryland law which concerns rentals but not preventing homeowners from doing work on their own homes. There is a small part of the law dealing with enforced abatement but it does not pertain to this situation as it stands.

When one takes a close look at a lot of statutes having to do with lead testing, abatement, and paint removal, it seems as if homeowners working on their own homes that they live in are not included in the scope of such laws.

This post was edited by lucille on Fri, Mar 28, 14 at 7:23

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 5:35PM
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Christopher Nelson Wallcovering and Painting

quote" Maryland, for instance, bans exactly what your neighbour is doing--

Not true

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 3:58AM
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quote" Maryland, for instance, bans exactly what your neighbour is doing--
Not true

Woops! Correction accepted. It was a Rhode Island publication I was quoting.

This post was edited by worthy on Fri, Mar 28, 14 at 18:31

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 8:36AM
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