New EPA lead-safe rules for contractors and painters: Do it right. Renovate Safe.

This month the EPA has put new “lead-safe” rules into effect that require additional training, certification and procedures for painters and contractors — any paid professional — that work with homes built before 1978. Here’s a snippet from the EPA’s web page on the new rule:

Common renovation activities like sanding, cutting, and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips by disturbing lead-based paint, which can be harmful to adults and children.

To protect against this risk, on April 22, 2008, EPA issued a rule requiring the use of lead-safe practices and other actions aimed at preventing lead poisoning. Under the rule, beginning in April 2010, contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978 must be certified and must follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.

And, here is a snippet from their main page on Lead:

Why Do You Need to Be Concerned About Lead?

Lead is a toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around our homes. Lead also can be emitted into the air from motor vehicles and industrial sources, and lead can enter drinking water from plumbing materials. Lead may cause a range of health effects, from behavioral problems and learning disabilities, to seizures and death. Children six years old and under are most at risk.

Most Common Sources of Lead Poisoning:

  • Deteriorating lead-based paint
  • Lead contaminated dust

Have I made my point yet? All of the joy of living in our lovely vintage homes is at risk if we do not Renovate Safe. If you are hiring a pro — make sure they are following the rules. I am pretty hard-ass about such things. If a firm tells you they took a certification short cut to save them/you a few bucks, I nix them from my contender’s list right then and there — I don’t want them to take safety shortcuts when they are working on my house!  Here is the link to an EPA service to find lead-safe certified professionals and evaluators. NOTE: You can also use the link to find a firm to come in an test all the surfaces in your home before you make an offer, when you move in, or whenever — this can be really great peace of mind, I’ve done it all my homes. Meanwhile, while this is not a Do-It-Yourself site, if you are doing it yourself, make sure YOU are following proper safety and environmental practices when it comes to both doing the work and disposing of debris. Get educated. Consult with pro’s. Do it right. Don’t take shortcuts. Be a grown-up. Be safe. 

Oh, and remember, this lead paint stuff also applies to vintage metal cabinets — test those finishes and make informed decisions about how to handle.


Get informed about the environmental & safety issues in your vintage home. #1 RULE: Consult with pros. For more info and links see my Be Safe/Renovate Safe page.

  1. Pam, you’re doing a GREAT service publicizing this info. Too many people think things like this don’t apply to them and their *little* remodel or resurface. But they’re doing themselves and their families a grave disservice if they ignore the potential hazards of a remodel.

    Thanks for being so proactive. I hope you’ve opened a few eyes today.

  2. Lesley says:

    Hi Pam! Just wanted to let your readers know that some city building departments offer low cost lead testing. Our city building department did our lead testing before we began our construction. We wanted to know way up front if we had lead (or asbestos) so that we didn’t have unplanned budget hits. (I wanted to know BEFORE we started anything so that we didn’t get caught blindsided).

    I also liked using the city do our tests because they are truly neutral. They also were willing to be a resource for information and finding licensed contractors in case we needed references.

    We also did asbestos testing, which strangely, no one required us to to for our permits. But, we did it to make sure we weren’t accidentally disturbing anything toxic.

  3. Ips says:

    The issue I am having is when I check EPA site to see if contractor and/or company is certified there is no listing. However, I have been supplied a copy of a certificate from Febr 2010 for 8 hrs of training from an environmental company via California Paints. Is this the appropriate training? Any help would be helpful.

    1. pam kueber says:

      Ips, I cannot answer this at all. You need to contact your trainer or California Paints or the EPA or….? Good luck, and glad to hear that you got the certification.

  4. Laura says:

    Renovators should also be aware that older floor varnishes and stains can contain lead. If you’re going to refinish floors that haven’t been sanded down within the last 30 years, you really should have them tested–that’s a lot of dust!

    1. pam kueber says:

      Thanks, Laura, for that one! Another reason to have EVERY surface tested when you buy a house.

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