Homeowners Unaware of Lead Hazards During Remodeling

Des Plaines, Ill., October 23, 2012—New survey results of NARI remodelers in June 2012 reveal a continued lack of homeowner awareness of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) Rule, which requires certification and lead-safe work practices for any renovation, repair or painting projects that disturbs more than 6 square inches in homes and child care facilities built prior to 1978.

The recent LRRP data shows 74 percent of remodelers placed homeowners awareness levels of RRP and its requirements at either no awareness or poor awareness levels. In addition, 86 percent of remodelers reported no change of LRRP awareness in the past six months.

“The lack of homeowner awareness is very concerning to NARI members—more than two years after the rule went into effect—especially due to the health implications of lead exposure and the widespread presence of lead hazards in the current housing stock,” says NARI National President Dean Herriges, MCR, CKBR, of Urban Herriges & Sons, based in Mukwonago, Wis.

The LRRP rule is designed to protect pregnant women and children under 6 from toxic lead exposure by requiring contractors to complete an eight-hour training course outlining lead-safe work practices that contain and minimize lead dust. Those who complete the course must supervise the renovation of pre-1978 homes, and the contracting firm must be a certified firm with the EPA.

NARI is concerned that lack of awareness of LRRP is putting the public at higher risk for lead exposure.

Despite the lack of general awareness comes a few moments triumph for many NARI members who have helped protect families—one project at a time.

Vance Dato, president of D&D Services Remodeling Specialist, based in Irving, Texas, is one remodeler who believes he changed his client’s life by bringing LRRP to light. In October 2011, the Dallas area was pounded with astounding data: More than 40,000 children under the age of 6 in a four-county area had a blood lead level of at least 2—well over the 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood limit.

Dato’s client, a doctor in his 40s, had just been released from a two-week hospital stay when he called. 

“The client was experiencing chest pain and asthmatic attacks and was in the midst of a 4- to 6-week medical leave from an unknown cause,” Dato says. “A perfectly healthy person in his prime suddenly was very sick.”

As Dato soon realized, the client’s bathroom remodel turned out to be much more than a makeover. “The home was pre-1978, so we were automatically going to follow the LRRP rules, but we decided to test also for the safety of my employees,” Dato says.

After inspection, an additional mold problem combined with his client’s health issues, sent Dato’s project into high gear. The moisture problems fueling the mold growth also impacted the lead issue. Warping and deterioration of the room caused lead paint to chip off into small pieces throughout. Both issues resulted in Dato recommending abatement.

“I had completed the lead abatement course the week before, and I knew under this circumstance we needed to remove everything,” he says.

The lead abatement process removed everything from the bathroom down to the studs. While removal was conducted, the entire area was sealed in complete isolation from the rest of the home. High-powered HEPA vacuums and a special bagging technique allowed items from the bathroom to be removed safely and picked up by the hazard chemical waste truck.

Dato says the three-week project has completely turned his client’s life around. “His health has improved, and he is back to work.”

Though the rule was largely designed to protect children under 6 years of age and pregnant women, lead exposure can affect everyone, especially over the long term.  Dato says his first line of defense against lead is to ask clients about the age of their homes and if they have noticed any health issues. He says educating clients helps them make the right decisions from greater knowledge and respect of their health.

The experience has taught Dato an important lesson as well. “When you’re living there and spending a few hours each day in a particular room, it can affect you regardless of your age or health.” Had Dato’s client hired an uncertified remodeler, his health could still be in question.

In addition to improving his client’s well-being, Dato’s bathroom remodel received the 2011 South Central Regional CotY Award in the Residential Bath under $30,000 category.

In honor of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (October 21-27, 2012), NARI is providing this checklist to minimize lead exposure for homeowners living in pre-1978 homes:


•             Verify that your contractor’s firm is registered with the EPA unless your state has taken over with its own lead safety program, in which case the certification process may be slightly different. To find out if your state is working under its own lead program, visit http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovation.htm#authorized

•             Verify at least one person is a Certified Renovator and has documented the training of the work crew and is supervising the work being completed in the home.

•             Know that these certifications must be accessible at the work site at all times.

•             Firms must post signs before renovation begins, clearly defining the work area and warning occupants and other persons not involved in renovation activities to remain outside of the work area.

•             Make sure you understand and sign the EPA’s “Renovate Right” brochure.

•             Remove all belongings from the immediate area of the renovation.

•             Notice if your contractor is using plastic sheeting that is taped 6 feet beyond the perimeter of surfaces undergoing renovation; reusable cloth coverings are not acceptable.

•             Renovators should be cleaning up and mopping daily to minimize dust contamination.

•             Contractors must use HEPA vacuums and/or wet mopping to remove lead particles.

•             All contaminated materials should be placed in heavy duty plastic bags before your contractor disposes of them.

To learn more about testing your child’s lead levels, testing your home for lead for lead or preventing health effects related to lead exposure visit http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/nlppw.htm. To find a NARI remodeler in your area who is a Lead Certified Renovator, visit www.nari.org. For green remodeling information, please visit www.greenremodeling.org.