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How Can I Get My Home Tested?
To test your home for lead, have either a risk assessment or a lead inspection done.
A risk assessment. A risk assessor tells you if your home contains sources of lead exposure such as peeling paint or lead dust. The risk assessor will give you a report that identifies lead hazards and ways to control them. If you suspect you have a lead problem, a risk assessment is usually the most appropriate way to test for lead hazards.
An inspection. A lead inspector reveals the lead content of every painted surface in your home. An inspection will not tell you whether the paint is a hazard or how you should deal with it. The purpose of the inspection is to test each type of painted surface in your home and answer two questions:
- Is lead-based paint present?
- If lead-based paint is present, where is it located?
It is important to know where lead-based paint is in your home so that, if disturbed by you or your contractor, additional lead hazards aren't created. An inspection is usually recommended if you plan to remodel, renovate, or disturb paint. It is also advised if you plan to abate the lead-based paint in your home.
Whether you hire an inspector or a risk assessor to do your testing, check his or her background. Those who have worked with public housing authorities and childhood lead poisoning prevention programs are usually well qualified. Beginning in August 1999, Federal law will require risk assessors and inspectors to be certified. For a list of certified lead inspectors and risk assessors in your area, call your state lead contact.
National Lead Service Providers. Listing System Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Lead Listing is a list of service providers who have received
training from a state-accredited training provider. Get a list by calling (888) LEAD.LIST or by visiting the Lead Listing Internet site at www.leadlisting.org.
National Lead Information Center's Clearinghouse Maintained by EPA, the clearinghouse sends testing and laboratory information to those who request it. The phone number is (800) 424.LEAD.
What Will I Get From the Testing?
Risk assessment: The risk assessor will identify lead-based paint hazards and suggest ways to reduce or control the hazards. For example, a risk assessor may suggest that you clean or dust more often; repair deteriorated lead-painted surfaces, or plant grass in areas with bare soil. The assessor may also suggest that you replace old windows, re-cover old floors, or remove soil. The risk assessor's report will show you what methods you can use to control hazards. It will also list an estimated cost of other actions you may take to prevent or control hazards.
Lead inspection: The inspector will give you a report that tells you whether your home contains lead-based paint and where it is found. The report will not tell you whether it is a hazard or how it should be treated.
What Are Home Test Kits?
Home test kits use chemicals to detect lead in paint, soil, and dust. Some kits can test water, dishes, glasses, and ceramics. A reaction occurs when the chemicals in the kit are exposed to lead.
Does the Federal Government Recommend Home Test Kits?
No. The Federal Government does not currently recommend home test kits to detect lead in paint, dust, or soil. Studies show the kits are not reliable enough to tell the difference between high and low levels of lead.
Do not rely on home test kits. Studies show that they are not always accurate.
What About Testing for Lead in Water?
If you think your water might contain lead, call either the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426.4791 or your local health department or water supplier to find out about testing your water. Meanwhile, use only cold water for drinking and cooking. Run tap water for 15 to 30 seconds (or until it feels much colder on your hand) before drinking it, especially if you have not used your water for several hours.
What About Testing for Lead in Dishes, Glasses, and Ceramics?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can tell you how to best test for lead in dishes, cups, glasses, and other items. Contact the FDA at (800) FDA.4010 for info on testing these items.
Am I Required to Do Anything After Testing?
You may not be required to do anything, but read about the situations described below to see if either one applies to you:
Some states and localities require the parents of children with high levels of lead in their blood to have the lead hazards abated by a certified contractor.
If you are a home seller or a landlord, you must reveal any known lead-based paint hazards to potential buyers or renters.
If you decide to hire a professional firm to control lead hazards, you may want to hire someone other than the person who did the testing.
What You Need to Know Before Working on Your Home
Using the right equipment when working with lead will keep you and your family safe from dangerous lead dust.
One of the most important pieces of equipment to use is a respirator with a HEPA filter on it. The respirator and filter will remove lead particles from the air you breathe.
Another important piece of equipment is a type of thick plastic sheeting called six-mil polyethylene plastic sheeting. The plastic must cover all work areas to prevent lead dust from spreading
throughout your home.
Before beginning a remodeling, renovation, or interim control project, it is important to plan. For example, decide where you will begin and how long the project will take. It is also important to get the right equipment to protect you and your family from lead exposure. The following section
will explain the equipment you will need and how to use it.
NIOSH-certified respirator with a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter. You should wear a properly fitted respirator equipped with a HEPA filter, which is always purple, when doing any work that might create lead dust. A respirator will filter lead dust
particles out of the air you breathe. You can buy respirators at many industrial supply centers or home improvement stores for about $20.00 to $30.00.
When you buy your respirator, make sure you have a fit check. Most stores that sell respirators have salespeople who can perform this test.
A fit check has two steps: (1) a positive-pressure fit check, and (2) a negative-pressure fit check. Have the fit check done when you buy the respirator, and repeat the test yourself every time you wear your respirator.
(1) Positive-pressure fit check. Use the palm of your hand to cover the respirator valve on your chin. Gently blow out. The respirator should balloon out slightly and the seal should tighten.
If air leaks out and the seal does not tighten, you need to adjust the respirator or try another size.
(2) Negative-pressure fit check. Cover the two filters with both hands and inhale. The respirator should tighten to your face and you should not feel any air flowing in. If you feel air coming in,
the respirator does not fit properly. You need to adjust it or try another size.
Keep the following points in mind when buying and using a respirator:
Get the right size.
If you are working with lead, your respirator must be equipped with a HEPA filter.
Perform negative- and positive-pressure fit checks every time you use your respirator.
If you have a beard, are not clean-shaven, or have a broken nose, a respirator cannot completely seal to your face. Dust particles can leak in.
If you have gained or lost weight since buying your respirator, it may no longer fit. You may have to purchase a different size.
Never take off your respirator until after you have removed your outer protective clothing.
HEPA filter-equipped vacuum cleaner. This is a special type of vacuum that removes small lead particles from floors, windowsills, and carpets, and stores them inside the vacuum cleaner. Household vacuums will not work; their exhaust systems release the lead particles into the air. You can rent a HEPA vacuum from stores that carry remodeling tools. Some laboratory safety and supply catalogs sell them starting at about $300.00. Remember when you finish vacuuming carefully empty the dust collected in the vacuum cleaner, being sure to dampen it with water first to control the spread of the collected dust.
Wet-sanding equipment. Wet/dry abrasive paper, and wet sanding sponges for wet-methods. These can be purchased at hardware stores.
All-purpose cleaner or a cleaner made specifically for lead. A solution of water and an all-purpose cleaner or a cleaner made specifically for lead should be used to clean up lead dust from work areas. Use one bucket for the cleaning solution and one bucket for rinsing. Change the rinse water frequently (at least once for each room being cleaned) and replace rags, sponges, and mops often.
Six-mil polyethylene plastic sheeting. This thick, plastic sheeting is used to cover the area in which you are working. It can be purchased at hardware stores or lumberyards. The label should say that the plastic is made of polyethylene and is 6 mils thick.
Duct tape. You will need duct tape to completely seal the plastic in place.
Protective clothing. To keep lead dust from being tracked throughout your home, wear clothes such as coveralls, shoe covers, hats, goggles, face shields, and gloves. These items are available through laboratory safety equipment supply catalogs and vendors. Inexpensive disposable suits can sometimes be purchased at paint stores.
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