Lead & Painted Surfaces
Guide on repainting and removal
DIY and professional painters and decorators
Lead In Painted Surfaces Introduction
Lead & painted surfaces. The UK decorative paint suppliers want to ensure that the public and professional painters and decorators, continue to be aware of the potential risks in their homes, commercial properties, and public buildings that are associated with exposure to old painted surfaces that may contain lead.
The adoption of the best practices, which protect decorators and others likely affected by exposure, to any disturbed old lead-painted surfaces, is a key requirement in the process of removal and repainting activities.
Professional painters and decorators should follow Statutory Instrument 2002 No.2676 Health and Safety – The Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 (often referred to as CLAW), these lay down precautions, training and monitoring of workers and are available from http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2002/2676/pdfs/uksi_20022676_en.pdf
EFFECTS OF LEAD EXPOSURE
Lead is hazardous to health.
It can be breathed in as dust, fume or vapour. It can be swallowed in the form of paint chips, dust or dirt containing lead, or in drinking water or in food, especially if you have not washed your hands. Lead contained in old lead-painted surfaces cannot be absorbed through the skin. If the amount of lead in your body gets too high it can cause:
Headaches-Tiredness-Irritability-Constipation-Nausea-Stomach pains-Anaemia-Loss of weight
Continued uncontrolled exposure can cause high blood lead levels that can have very serious health consequences, such as:
Kidney damage-Nerve and brain damage-Infertility
Note: These symptoms can also have causes other than lead exposure so they do not necessarily mean that lead poisoning has occurred. 3 HS022 December 2014
Very young children would be particularly vulnerable to these potential adverse health effects of elevated levels of lead in the blood. Children absorb lead mostly by eating it or touching contaminated dust or soil and then putting their fingers into their mouths. An unborn child is at particular risk from lead exposure, especially in the early weeks before pregnancy known.
If you are a woman capable of having children, you should take special care to follow good working practices and a high level of personal hygiene. Similarly, unnecessary exposure of children to lead should be eliminated as a precautionary measure.
HOW DO I KNOW IF THERE IS LEAD ON PREVIOUSLY PAINTED SURFACE?
Lead pigments were taken out of most paints in the 1960s and lead pigments and driers were completely removed by the early 1980s. Many surfaces painted before the 1960s could contain significant lead; although this applies mainly to wood and metal surfaces.
Lead pigments, either as a white pigment (lead carbonate/lead sulphate) or sometimes as a colouring pigment (lead chromes) were widely used in decorative paints applied in houses and other buildings (schools, hospitals etc.). Although leaded paint has not been used for many decades-old lead-painted surfaces can still be found, and can represent a possible source of exposure.
To be absolutely certain whether or not lead-containing paint is present on any particular surface, the paint needs to be tested by a specialist laboratory (a), a professional decorator (b) knowledgeable about the subject or a specialist company (c).
Lead test kits, that give a simple indication of the presence of lead, are available from some retailers and trade counters and directly from distributors (d). If the instructions for use are followed carefully, and the test paper shows, a positive response then lead is present. However as the test is not necessarily 100% accurate a negative reading should not be relied upon to show the absence of lead and if you think there could be lead present then a quantitative test should be carried out – see c) below.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Whilst lead is hazardous to health it is important to realise that there is only a risk if the paint film is unsound or disturbed.
Though leaded paint may not be used for many years, lead-painted surfaces can still be found underneath existing paintwork in older buildings. The hazards for lead have been documented.
You may wish to check whether you are dealing with lead-based paints using a lead test kit; otherwise, you could assume that you are. Have you considered leaving the paintwork in situ if it is in good condition? This is the preferred option. You could paint over it after “keying” using wet abrasive paper. Lead paint really should only be removed if it is flaking away or if there is the real possibility of the painted surface being chewed or tampered with by children.
If you decide removal is the only option, make sure your contractors’ workers are adequately instructed and understand the hazards and the control measures required. They should wear RPE with an assigned protection factor of 20 (FFP3 disposable mask or half mask with a P3 filter), face fit tested. Also, they should wear disposable overalls and gloves, and remove them before leaving the area.
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