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Safety Tips | Workplace exposure

Safe removal of lead-based paint

January 12, 2011

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Working on jobsites painted before 1978 can pose risks associated with lead-based paints. Workers need to be aware of safe practices in removing this paint to avoid the health risks that come with lead exposure both during and after work has taken place.

The site should be properly prepared and well-contained to prevent the spread of lead dust and debris. Cleanup should be ongoing throughout the job, and specialized cleaning techniques should be used when the work has been completed.

The National Safety Council outlines the following methods to avoid when removing lead-based paint:
Power sanding or grinding without a HEPA vacuum attachment:

Power tools create a great deal of dust, which is toxic when dealing with lead-based paints. A HEPA vacuum attachment will help trap a significant portion of the dust, but this is not the safest method of paint removal.

Dry scraping or sanding: Dry methods of sanding also create dangerous lead dust conditions. Spraying the area with water before sanding can help eliminate this condition. Because it is unsafe to use wet sanding methods around electrical wiring, dry scraping can be done in small areas, but workers must be sure to wear respiratory protection and use specialized cleanup methods.

Uncontrolled abrasive- or hydro-blasting: These methods can spread dust beyond the worksite, although contained blasting or pressure washing can be performed by certified lead abatement

Open-flame torching or high heat gun settings: In addition to dangerous dust, removing paint with an open flame or heat gun will create highly toxic gases that even a HEPA filter cannot protect against. A heat gun should only be used on smaller jobs, and the temperature should be set no higher than 1,110° F.

Paint strippers containing methylene chloride: This substance is a known carcinogen and is never recommended for use.

 

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