Stripping lead paint is the best way to guarantee safety against the devastating effects of lead on the human body. However, hiring an expert to handle the stripping process can sometimes be too expensive, something that then makes the idea of stripping it yourself more attractive. Here is what you should know.
It is dangerous to strip lead paint because you can inhale lead particles during the process. The dust from the stripping process can also get on your carpets, sofas, and other fixtures. Given that lead poisoning can lead to neurological abnormalities, irritability, developmental delays in children, and in extreme cases can even cause death, stripping lead is an inherently dangerous task that should be undertaken with the utmost care and responsibility.
What are the risks?
The most common way through which lead gets into the human body during the lead paint removal process is through inhalation. To help protect your respiratory system from lead particle invasion, you need to wear a half-mask respirator. Going for one that has a P100 filter will give you adequate protection.
According to the CDC, there are studies that show lead can get into the human body through the skin. Therefore, taking steps to shield your skin from contact with lead paint dust is recommended. The easiest way to achieve this is by wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts. A pair of good rubber gloves will protect your hands, and good quality goggles or glasses will come in handy in shielding your eyes from dust and lead-laden paint debris.
Even if you aren’t at risk of getting lead poisoning through the skin, protecting your body from lead paint dust will keep you from spreading it around the home after you are done with the stripping process. This will reduce the risks of exposing your loved ones through inadvertent touching.
DIY and safe lead paint removal
If you are going to DIY the whole lead paint stripping process, you will also need to learn how to control the dust that results from disturbing the lead paint. This may involve adopting wet working techniques, using a HEPA vacuum, and even making sure that your shoes are covered with disposable or washable shoe covers.
However, the most important step in making sure that the whole process can be done safely will involve the use of polyethylene plastic sheets to keep the resulting dust and sludge contained.
As a result, you will have to cover the doorway with multiple sheets, cover floors, fixtures, and any other exposed surfaces with a generous amount of thin plastic sheets in order to avoid any contact with the poisonous dust that is typically emitted during the stripping process. Thoroughly cleaning up after is also a must.
Is it safe to strip lead paint with a heat gun?
No, it is not safe to strip lead paint with a heat gun. Why? Because high temperatures normally vaporize lead, and so using a heat gun will expose you to higher risks of inhaling toxic lead fumes. Furthermore, containing the toxic fumes will be a little bit more of a challenge than controlling dust particles because using plastic sheets may not be adequate enough to keep the fumes under control.
As a result, heat gun use is not recommended when it comes to lead paint stripping.
Is it dangerous to sand lead paint?
Sanding lead paint, especially when power tools are used, can be dangerous because it breaks down the paint into small particles that can then be inhaled. These particles can also be accidentally ingested. And when they invade your home, they can expose your loved ones to the negative side effects of lead poisoning.
However, sanding lead paint can be made safe when the appropriate precautions are taken. For starters, you can eliminate the dust-creating tendency of the sanding process by using wet sanding techniques. These techniques involve using water at every step of the process and thus limiting the risks of kicking off a lead-laden dust cloud.
You can also make sanding less dangerous by avoiding sanding power tools. This is because these tools usually kick up dust clouds, something that you want to prevent at all costs. Since you don’t have to remove all the lead paint from the wall, opting for gentler sanding methods like using a sanding sponge will be both safer and effective.
What is the safest method of removing lead paint?
Wet scraping is the safest method of removing lead paint. With this method, the surface containing loose lead paint is sprayed with water, and the loose particles are then scraped away with a carbide scraper. This is the safest method of removing lead paint because it carries a low risk of creating lead dust and it also does not involve the use of any additional chemicals.
Sanding is a dangerous method of lead paint removal because the sanding process typically breaks down lead paint into smaller particles. It becomes even more dangerous when power sanding tools are used.
However, it can be made a little less dangerous if the water is used during the sanding process. Using a HEPA vacuum to control the resulting dust will also help to make the process safer.
When sanding, you will need to protect yourself with a respirator that is fitted with a P100 filter, rubber gloves, goggles, and long-sleeved working clothes.
Heat guns can heat to temperatures that are way above 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit. As a result, while using a heat gun will make it easier for you to remove lead paint from your wall, it carries a high risk of creating dangerous fumes. For this reason, using a heat gun to strip lead paint is not recommended.
Given the risk of poisoning through inhalation of lead fumes, you will need a high-quality respirator in order to protect yourself from these fumes. And since you will be working with heat, heat-resistant gloves will also come in handy. A HEPA vacuum will also help with dust control.
Using a chemical paint stripper is among the safest ways of stripping lead paint. This is so mainly because it does not carry the risk of creating airborne lead particles as the paint stripper works by simply attaching the paint’s binder.
Therefore, it offers the best option as far as containing lead is concerned. However, the reason why it is not the safest method of lead paint removal is the fact that chemical paint strippers typically use ingredients like acetone, ethanol, methanol, methylene chloride, and toluene. These chemicals can pose a health risk to the user and can cause severe side effects like skin burn, respiratory issues, and irritation.
When using chemical paint strippers, you must wear high-quality rubber gloves. Good goggles will come in handy in helping to protect your eyes from irritation, and a half-mask respirator will keep you from inhaling toxic fumes.
Given that paint stripping chemicals can cost as low as $30 per half-gallon, and the fact that you won’t need to take extra dust control measures, this is an easy and affordable way of getting rid of lead paint.
Is there something that neutralizes?
Yes, chemicals like trisodium phosphates can neutralize lead by transforming it into a different compound — lead phosphate. Some chemical paint strippers also contain compounds that react with lead in paint on a molecular level and thus transforming it into a different compound. The only problem is that most of these chemicals tend to be either toxic or carcinogenic.
Some of the best ways to neutralize the effect of lead paint is to either encapsulate the lead paint by using special primers or to create enclosures with aluminum or by erecting additional drywall. Using encapsulates, that one can get for as low as $50 per gallon, and creating enclosures simply neutralize the dangerous effects of lead paint exposure by covering it and reducing the risks of chipping, flaking, or accidental ingestion by children.
What are the symptoms of lead paint exposure?
According to Mayo Clinic, exposure to lead-based paints is a leading cause of lead poisoning in children. Therefore, it can thus cause serious symptoms like seizures, learning difficulties, significant developmental delay, rapid weight loss, irritability, fatigue, and sluggishness in children.
Adults are also not spared from lead paint exposure. According to WebMD, it is common for people who have been exposed to lead paint to experience symptoms like low sperm count, stomach pain, muscle, and joint pain, pregnancy complications, extreme mood swings, memory lapses, and headaches.
The cost of de-leading a house ranges from $1500 to $6000. And while the national average cost of getting rid of lead in a home rests at about $3087, what a homeowner pays usually varies depending on the size of their home. Generally, per-square-foot costs of between $8 and $15 common.
No, you should never burn off lead paint as this will create dangerous fumes that when inhaled, can cause lead poisoning. Burning off lead paint also creates an environmental hazard and is thus not a recommended method of removing lead paint.
Yes, according to the CDC, lead can be absorbed through the skin. As a result, it is always advisable to protect yourself by wearing long sleeved shirts, long pants, and rubber gloves when stripping lead paint.
Yes, you can just paint over lead paint in order to minimize the risks of exposure. However, if you choose this method, it is always advisable that you use encapsulators like special primers that help to keep the lead paint contained.
Yes, provided the paint does not flake, chip or break away, you can live safely in a house with lead paint without suffering the adverse effects of lead paint exposure. However, for peace of mind, it is always advisable that you have the lead paint removed in order to avoid accidental exposures.