Removing Lead Based Paint In The
Many Canadians are choosing to renovate their homes rather than move to new ones.
Besides making good economic sense, renovating can be a very rewarding experience.
homes may contain leadbased paint. Removing or disturbing old leadbased paint as part
of a renovation project can expose people in your home to a health risk. So, before you
take out the sander, or circular saw, or paint stripping equipment, there are some things
you should know about disturbing or removing paint.
of lead exposure
ve known for a long time that lead is hazardous to health. Scientists now realize that
even small amounts of lead can be harmful, especially to infants and young children. In
addition, lead taken in by the mother can interfere with the health of the unborn child.
particularly at risk because they absorb lead more easily than adults do. They are
developing rapidly, and are more susceptible to the health hazards of lead. Children also
absorb a higher proportion of lead from other sources (food, water and dust, for example)
than adults. Contaminated dust is a particularly important source of exposure for babies
and small children because they can ingest a significant amount of dust through their
natural habit of putting things in their mouths.
The degree of
lead poisoning varies depending on the amount of lead we are exposed to, and for how long.
Studies show that prolonged exposure of children to even very small amounts of lead is
serious. Depending on the level of exposure, lead can cause anemia, impair the functions
of the brain and nervous system, and can result in learning disabilities and an inability
Does my home
contain leadbased paint?
your home was built before 1960, it was likely painted with a leadbased paint. Most
paints made before 1950 contained large amounts of lead. In fact, some paint made in the
1940 s contained up to 50 per cent lead by dry weight. Lead was used to make paint dry
quickly and wear well, and to make the colours vibrant. The amount and kind of lead varies
in different types of paint.
You can find out
the level of lead in your paint by scientific testing. Some large Canadian cities have
contractors using Xray fluorescence (XRF) equipment to sense for lead on surfaces. If
so, this would be your most economical means of testing for an extensive renovation.
the paint analyzed at a laboratory certified by the Standards Council of Canada or the
Canadian Association for Environmental Analytical Laboratories for the analysis of lead in
paint. One procedure is to measure and outline a 2 cm by 2 cm section of the wall to be
tested. Remove all paint and even some of the plaster in this area and send it in a
plastic bag for analysis of total lead mass. Ask for your results in milligrams (mg) of
lead. Divide this result by 4 cm2 to get an answer in mg/cm2. For instance, if the lab
tells you that you have 12 mg of lead in your sample, then 12 mg/4 cm2. With a result
under 1 mg/cm2 require that you take precautions to keep children and pregnant women away
from the site.
Amount of paint
above 5 mg/cm2 mean that your house is heavily leaded and that, in addition to the above
mentioned precautions, you may need qualified professional help to keep low lead levels in
the house during and following renovation.
Since the 1950 s,
the use of lead has been more common in exterior paint than interior paint. Between 1950
and 1976, the use of lead in paints decreased significantly. Owners of homes built after
1980 need not be concerned about lead levels in interior paints. All post1992 consumer
paint produced in Canada or the U.S. is virtually leadfree.
If there is
leadbased paint in my home, should I remove it?
paint doesn t present a health hazard as long as the paint is not chipping or flaking, and
isn t where it can be chewed by young children, for example, on window sills, older
painted cribs and toys, etc. In fact, removing old paint can sometimes result in a more
immediate hazard than simply leaving the painted area intact.
Sanding sends a
cloud of paint dust and scatters paint chips through the entire house. Dust from
leadbased paint can contaminate the air you breathe, everything you touch, and any food
that is exposed. Paint chips might be eaten by young children. Heat guns and blowlamps
vaporize the paint, and can fill the air with leaded fumes. These fumes, and paint dust
can migrate outofdoors, spreading the lead to soils and gardens, and contributing to
the build up of lead throughout the environment.
To lessen any
chance of exposure to leadedpaint, surfaces that are still in good condition can be
covered with vinyl wallpaper, wallboard or panelling. In areas that children can t reach,
applying one or more coats of nonleaded paint to old but intact surfaces will help.
And if I
decide to remove the paint?
CONTACT A PROFESSIONAL CONTRACTOR PRIOR TO COMMENCING ANY REMOVALS BY ANY METHODS The
Torbo Wet Abrasive Blasting Technique is new technology being widely used throughout
United States and Europe. The usual methods of removing paint involve sanding or
using a heat gun or blowlamp, or chemical paint strippers.
guns and blowlamps should not be used to remove leadbased paint for the reasons
The safest way to
remove leadbased paint on doors or trim is to have the wood stripped offsite, either
professionally or outside in a wellventilated space. For walls, ceilings, or immovable
trim, chemical strippers are perhaps the best solution. Application strippers, which
consist of a paste applied with a brush, are best. However, all chemical paint strippers
contain potentially harmful substances, so care must be taken when using them. Not all
strippers are equally good for removing paint from the same materials read the
manufacturer s instructions carefully. There are some very effective dustcollecting
sanders or media blasters (e.g., plastic bead blasting) that are coming on the market.
Keep an eye out for these as an alternative, but make sure that they can guarantee a
dustfree work environment.
matter which method you choose to remove old paint, and regardless of whether the paint is
on the inside or outside of your home, there are some very important rules to follow.
your local Ministry of Labour office or Ontario Government Book Store for information on
proper Type 3 operational Proceduires to remove Lead Based Paint and discuss what Method
you will be using.
Extensive renovation can pose hazards to
anyone s health. Preschool children and pregnant women are especially susceptible to
leaded dust. They should limit their exposure as much as possible.
Remove as much of the furnishings from the
work area as possible. Furniture and carpets that can t be removed should be covered
completely with plastic sheeting. Hepa Vacuums required. Isolate the work
area to prevent the spread of scrapings, chips and particles of paint to other parts of
the house. This can be done by covering doorways and vents with plastic sheeting and tape.
If you develop breathing problems,
dizziness, nausea or headaches while working with paint strippers, get outdoors into fresh
air. Before starting work, make sure the room is properly ventilated. Check with local
building officials. You can contaminate your property and house if removed
improperly! Place a fan blowing out of an open window to promote adequate
ventilation. If possible, first apply stripper to the area nearest the fan and then
gradually further away so that, as the solvent evaporates, the fumes head toward the fan
and not past your nose.
Always wear goggles and gloves when using
paint strippers. If stripper gets on your skin, wash it off right away, and remove any
clothing on which the stripper has spilt. Use a good quality breathing mask designed for
use with organic chemicals. These can be purchased at specialized paint or safety
equipment outlets. It s a good idea to keep a pair of coveralls and work shoes to wear
only in the work area. Wash all work clothes separately from other clothing.
Work for only about 10 minutes at a time
and then take a break outside in the fresh air.
Never eat, drink or smoke while removing
Keep all sources of ignition, including
anything that might cause a spark or static electricity, out of the work area many
strippers are flammable. Not near Gas furnaces, appliances open flames.
Clean the work area thoroughly at the end
of each day.
Collect paint scrapings and chips and place
them in a sealed container clearly marked Leadcontaining paint scrapings Hazardous
Waste. Wipe the entire work area with a clean damp cloth, and discard the cloth when you
re done. In many parts of Canada, special arrangements exist for the disposal of hazardous
household wastes. Paint scrapings should not be discarded with the garbage. To find out
how to dispose of old paint strippings, contact either your local municipality, or the
local office of the provincial Ministry of the Environment.
RESTORATION ENVIRONMENTAL CONTRACTORS As mentioned previously, another option is
to have professionals do the job either in your home, or remove the woodwork for stripping
at their shop. If you hire professionals to remove the paint in your home, make sure they
follow the advice given here the method of stripping, proper ventilation, cleaning up,
etc. Call Restoration Environmental Contractors about our new Torbo Wet Abrasive Blasting
How can people
be checked for lead?
a simple blood test, your family physician can determine how much lead you have been
exposed to. For further information, contact your physician or the Poison Information
Centre in your area.
What is the
government doing to reduce exposure to lead?
federal government is working to limit all sources of lead exposure to Canadians (for
example, removing lead from gasoline, controlling industrial emissions, removing lead from
In 1976, the
Hazardous Products Act limited the amount of lead in interior paint to 0.5 per cent by
weight. Over the years, the amount of lead in paint has continued to decrease due to
cooperative efforts of government and industry. At the recommendation of the Canadian
Paint and Coatings Association (CPCA), the national trade association for Canada s paint
manufacturers, has recommended that the Canadian paint industry voluntarily stop using any
lead compounds in consumer paints by the end of 1990.
September 1, 1995