Eastern Pennsylvania Testing & Inspection Services
Eastern Pennsylvania
Testing & Inspection Services, LLC
Nazareth, PA 18064
Phone: 610-417-1006
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PA Department of Environmental Protection
PA DEP ID# 2475


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Paint Removal

Paint removal is the stripping of lead-based paint from an object. This process creates a large amount of lead and waste, so choose paint removal only if no other abatement strategy will work, or if an object has historical value.

It is possible to have paint removed on-site (in your home) or off-site (at a paint stripping plant). You can reduce the risk of lead exposure during abatement by choosing off-site paint removal, and allowing items to be taken from your home to a professional stripping plant.

Advantages of Off-Site Paint Removal

Keeps hazardous chemical strippers out of your home.

Preserves the detail on decorative doors, molding, and trims.

Useful on antique items that cannot be replaced.

Disadvantages of Off-Site Paint Removal.

The liquid waste you generate when you rinse and clean the stripped items may be hazardous.

Chemical stripping never removes all of the lead.

Leftover stripper will cause the new paint coat to fail.

Removing a building component for off-site stripping creates dust.

Exterior Paint Removal

Lead-based paint found on the outside of your house can be hazardous too. It may need to be removed or enclosed so that it does not get into the dirt surrounding your house.

To get rid of the lead-based paint on the exterior of your house, your contractor will likely use vacuum blasting, water blasting, or exterior enclosure.

Advantages of Vacuum or Water Blasting

Can be used on the exterior of your home.

Disadvantages of Vacuum or Water Blasting.

Can damage the treated surface, especially wood.

Creates a lot of waste and can spread paint chips around nearby areas.

Very expensive.

Help From a Risk Assessor or a Contractor

In some households, interim controls work well. Others require abatement. For still others, the best approach is to combine interim controls with abatement. Deciding on the safest, most efficient, and most cost-effective approach in your case is difficult, so consider consulting a certified risk assessor. Risk assessors are trained to identify strategies for reducing the hazards of lead-based paint.

Cleaning Up Lead Waste

Cleanup is the most important step in controlling or getting rid of lead hazards.

If the cleanup is done incorrectly, your home may be more hazardous than it was before the work began.

Dust contaminated with lead by home projects from remodeling to interim controls and abatement can be hazardous to you and your family. In fact, if this dust is not properly removed both during and after projects your home could be more hazardous than it was before work began.

Cleanup is the most important step in your project. Here are some tips for daily cleanup, personal cleanup, and final cleanup after the job is done.

Daily Cleanup

Daily cleanup is important whenever you or your contractor work with lead. Daily cleaning prevents the spread of lead dust and makes cleanup at the end of the project much easier.

At the end of every project day, do the following:

Wrap up and label any debris or trash.

Mop floors and wash exposed surfaces and tools with a solution of water and an all-purpose cleaner or a cleaner made specifically for lead. Allow to dry.

Strain out paint chips from liquid waste and dispose of them in a heavy-duty plastic bag. Vacuum all exposed surfaces and any plastic sheeting with a HEPA filter-equipped vacuum cleaner.

Cleanup is the most important step.

Mist outside areas using a garden hose before sweeping these areas with a broom. Avoid dry sweeping since it spreads lead dust. Shovel, rake, or HEPA vacuum debris into heavy-duty plastic bags placed in cardboard boxes for support.

Clean your vacuum and tools with a solution of water and an all-purpose cleaner or a cleaner made specifically for lead.

Seal off the entryways with the thick, plastic sheeting if you have to leave a work site unattended.

Personal Cleanup

It is very important that whoever has been doing the work follow these steps to prevent lead dust from spreading to other areas of your home:

Wash your hands and face whenever you leave your work area.

Change your clothes and shoes before leaving the work area. After removing your clothes, wash them immediately, separately from other family laundry.

Shower and wash your hair right after finishing work to prevent spreading lead dust. Keep in mind that anyone observing lead hazard control work or entering a room in which work is being done needs to take safety precautions as well. They should always remove their shoes before leaving the work area and wash their hands after leaving the work area.

Final Cleanup

Final cleanup, which takes place at the end of a project, must be performed slowly and carefully. It should occur no sooner than 1 hour after the project ends. Time is needed to let lead dust settle.

Here are the steps of the final cleanup process:

Collect waste and debris and seal in plastic bags.

Carefully remove any plastic sheeting by rolling or folding inward.

Wash all surfaces with a solution of water and an all-purpose cleaner or a cleaner made specifically for lead. Allow to dry.

Vacuum all exposed surfaces with a HEPA filter-equipped vacuum. After the above tasks have been performed, you should not see any dust.

Clearance Examination

After any type of lead work has been performed in your home, it is strongly recommended that you hire a professional to perform a clearance examination. This is especially important after an abatement procedure. Because an abatement is likely to disturb lead-painted surfaces, you need to be certain that you and your family will not be exposed to lead hazards. A clearance examination includes a visual examination and an analysis of dust samples to ensure that lead levels are not a danger to you and your family and that cleanup was done properly. The clearance examination should take place no sooner than 1 hour after any cleaning activity to allow lead particles to settle.

For a list of qualified professionals in your area who perform testing services, call your state lead contact or the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Lead Listing at (888) LEAD.LIST. You can also get testing and laboratory information by calling the National Lead Information Center's Clearinghouse at (800) 424-LEAD.

The purpose of the clearance examination is to make sure that dust levels are low so you and your family will not be exposed to lead hazards.

Hazardous Waste Disposal

Working with lead produces many types of waste materials. Including lead-based paint chips, liquid waste, used cleaning materials, and lead painted doors and windows. Do not keep waste materials like doors, windows, and scraps of wood for other uses, and never burn lead painted wood. This creates hazardous lead fumes. Hazardous waste that is not disposed of properly will harm the environment. Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and state or local regulations, certain types of waste are considered hazardous and must be disposed of at a hazardous waste facility. If you generate lead waste in your own home, however, the hazardous waste requirements may not apply to you. Call your state lead contact to see how lead trash should be disposed of in your area.

From the IAQ Tools for Schools - IAQ Coordinator's Guide www.epa.gov/iaq/schools/tfs/guidee.html

Description Sources Standards or Guidelines
Lead is a highly toxic metal. Sources of lead include drinking water, food, contaminated soil and dust, and air. Lead-based paint is a common source of lead dust.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has banned lead in paint.
Health Effects Control Measures
Lead can cause serious damage to the brain kidneys, nervous system, and red blood cells. Children are particularly vulnerable. Lead exposure in children can result in delays in physical development, lower IQ levels, shorten attention spans, and increase behavioral problems.  

Abatement Guidelines for Your Contractor

Once you have hired an abatement contractor, you should know how the abatement project will be carried out. The information in this appendix will help. It lists general guidelines for performing the four types of structural abatement, including:

  • Replacement
  • Encapsulation
  • Enclosure
  • Paint Removal

Keep in mind these are not step-by-step instructions. The guidelines are meant to help you make sure that your contractor is working safely and properly.

Method Where It Is Best Used

Encapsulation. Walls, ceilings, and trim. Curved surfaces.

Enclosure. Floors, pipes, ceilings, exterior trim, etc.

Paint Removal and Wet Scraping. Loose paint. Should not be used as a removal method for large areas.

Off-Site Chemical Stripping. Restoration of historic pieces. Doors, mantels, metal railings, trim.

Solvents. Metal substrates. To clean residue left by other methods.

Heat Gun. Flat surfaces. To soften thick layers of paint. (Should not be operated above 1100° F)

Q. What should I do to prepare for an abatement?
A. Everyone in your home, especially children and pregnant women, must stay out of the house until the work is done and the cleanup, including dust sample analysis, is complete. In some cases, after the work area is contained, you may be able to enter your home if you stay out of the work area.

Replacing Doors, Windows, and Woodwork

Opening and closing doors or windows stirs up lead dust. Bumping or banging woodwork does too. You may need to replace some of them to prevent lead dust from spreading to other areas of your home.

Make sure your contractor:

  • Covers the area around the part being replaced and any nearby surfaces with two or three layers of 6-mil polyethylene plastic sheeting. When the part being removed is a window, make sure the contractor attaches this plastic sheeting to the wall below the window and extends it at least 6 feet on each side of the window to contain lead dust and debris.
  • Mists the component with water before removing it.
  • Vacuums the part to be removed with a HEPA filter-equipped vacuum to prevent lead dust from spreading.
  • After removal, wraps the part in plastic sheeting.
  • Before installing the new part, disposes of the old part and cleans the work area.

Depending on the task to be performed, your contractor can choose from among many encapsulation products and should consider where the encapsulant will be applied. Encapsulant makers provide directions on preparing surfaces and on monitoring, maintaining, and cleaning encapsulated surfaces. If properly applied and maintained, an encapsulant should last for 20 years.

Whenever possible, windows should be removed from the outside of your home to prevent the spread of lead dust inside.

Preparing the Area

Make sure your contractor:

  • Eliminates all moisture sources and allows the surface to dry.
  • Lays thick, plastic sheeting (mentioned on pages 25 and 60) around the work area to prevent lead dust from spreading to other parts of the room, or to other rooms in your home.
Enclosing a Wall

Make sure your contractor:

  • Writes the words "Lead-Based Paint" on the wall to be enclosed.
  • Nails strips of wood 12 inches apart down the wall being enclosed.
  • Nails one horizontal strip of wood along the base of the wall, and seals it with caulk along the bottom edge to create a dust-tight seal.
  • Measures and caulks the new wallboard or paneling, and attaches it to the original wall.
  • Measures and caulks the baseboard, and attaches it to the bottom of the wallboard.
  • Measures and caulks the shoe molding, and attaches it to the bottom of the baseboard.
  • Completely cleans the work area.
  • Paints or papers the new wall.
  • Exterior walls can be enclosed in much the same way.
Enclosing a Ceiling

Make sure your contractor:

  • Writes the words "Lead-Based Paint" on the ceiling to be enclosed.
  • Using a stud finder, finds the ceiling studs.
  • Measures the wallboard carefully.
  • Caulks and screws the wallboard directly into the ceiling studs.
  • Completely cleans the work area.
  • Paints the new ceiling.
Paint Removal

There are many ways to remove paint, and some of them should never be used on lead-based paint. They include:

  • Torch or flame burning.
  • Open abrasive blasting.
  • Uncontained water blasting.
  • Machine sanding without a HEPA filter.
  • On-site use of chemical strippers that contain methylene chloride.
  • On-site use of flammable solvents.
  • Solutions of potassium or sodium hydroxides.
  • Dry scraping large areas.
Off-Site Paint Removal

Off-site paint removal works best for doors, mantels, and other trim that may have architectural or historical value. The items are dipped into a tank of chemical stripping agents, and the paint dissolves off the surface. Be sure to wash the items before reinstalling them. You may also need to refinish or re-glue the pieces.

On-Site Paint Removal

If you must have paint removed in your home, your contractor can apply one or more of these methods:

Wet scraping. Wet scraping is a way to prepare a surface for repainting by removing loose paint. The surface must be misted before being scraped to keep lead dust levels down. It also must be misted constantly while it is being scraped.

Wet planing. Similar to wet scraping, the surface must be misted with water before being planed and while it is being planed.

Electric heat guns. Electric heat guns force warmed air onto a painted surface. The heat softens the paint, and then scraped off with hand tools. Heat guns should not be warmed above 1100°F. If heated above this temperature, lead-based paint can give off toxic fumes.

Local exhaust hand tools. These handheld power tools are attached to a HEPA vacuum by a hose. The vacuum contains a HEPA filter to prevent the spread of lead dust.

Chemical stripping. Some states prohibit the use of methylene chloride, which is often used in chemical strippers. Your contractor should know whether chemical stripping is an option in your state. If not, check with your state lead contact.

Vacuum Blasting, Water Blasting, and Enclosure for Exterior Paint

Although vacuum blasting or water blasting should never be done inside your home because of the waste they create, your contractor may remove paint from the exterior of your home using these methods. To avoid contaminating areas around your home and your neighbors' homes, make sure your contractor controls the spread of any waste or debris.

When removing exterior paint, make sure your contractor:

  • Protects the soil, bushes, plants, and the area around your home by taping thick, plastic sheeting to the base of the structure. The plastic sheeting should extend at least 6 feet for every story.
  • Places 2" x 4" boards under the edge of the plastic sheeting to create a curb. The curb should direct the wastewater into a low spot, where it can be pumped into a 55-gallon drum.
  • Cleans and smoothes the surface.

Enclosing outside surfaces with a dust-tight material or aluminum siding is often the best method to use. This will protect the lead-based paint from the elements and will increase the energy efficiency of your home. It also creates less waste than other abatement methods.

Chemical stripping is the use of solvents or caustic pastes to dissolve and strip off paint. Chemical strippers are dangerous and may give off harmful vapors, which can catch on fire.

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