Sanding Lead Paint – Staying Safe When Working With Lead-based Paint
Sometimes, badly peeling or flaking paint must be removed by scraping and sanding. If this is necessary, you must carefully seal the area off to avoid contaminating other areas.
Here are a few pointers and methods that will minimize the spread of lead contamination:
- Think of the most mild means of scraping or sanding. These include wet scraping and sanding, using a heat gun set at a relatively low temperature combined with gentle scraping, or chemical strippers.
- If a sander is being used, attach it to a HEPA vacuum shroud.
- It may be safer to take some items to another location or even better, outdoors. Things like doors and shutters are easily removed.
Safe Lead Paint Containment Methods
In most situations, coatings designed to cover lead paint is not only the safest, but least expensive way to contain the lead, as opposed to removing it. Encapsulation is also the easiest remediation method, no more difficult than painting. It is also federally-approved.
If the room must be sealed off and sanded, or the lead-based paint must otherwise be removed or disturbed, start by removing all furniture and covering in plastic anything that cannot be removed.
Then start sealing off the contaminated room. Choose one door for entering and leaving the room, and seal off any other entries. Close windows and seal them off with plastic. To prevent lead-laden dust from settling into door seals, tape the cracks around doors.
Once an entry is chosen, you need to cover the frame with plastic and cut a vertical slit for entering and exiting. Line up a second piece of plastic over the first, taping it down only at the top. This forms a curtain that will prevent dust from escaping through the slit.
Then start cleaning each room from the top down with a high-efficiency vacuum cleaner. You want to remove any carpet, so excessive lead dust isn’t ground into the carpet. Before you do so, vacuum the carpet. If it is seriously dirty, steam clean after a thorough vacuuming. Then remove from the room. You may have to take down the plastic curtain to remove the carpet.
You also need to prevent dust in the tainted room from circulating through vents into the rest of the house. Turn off the air conditioning or heat. Then seal all vents closed with strong plastic and tape.
Lead Paint Safety Practices
- Wear a respirator that is NIOSH certified. That stands for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Don’t try to get by with just a dust mask. You’ll still inhale some of the dangerous dust. Use a N100 disposable respirator and this is the only type certified for lead dust.
- Also wear disposable protective clothing with sleeves and hood. Tyvek or polyester disposable coveralls are inexpensive and tough enough for most jobs.
- Wear gloves and boot covers. The gloves will keep the dust off your hands while the disposable boot covers will stop the tracking of dust from one area to another, perfect for working indoors.
- Sticky mats are a great investment for interior projects and will further help stop the tracking of dust.
A HEPA vacuum is the best choice for cleanup. High efficiency particulate air filters are designed to capture over 99.9% of dangerous particles. In fact, the technology used in these vacuums is the same as in high-quality respirators.
Disposing of a vacuum bag is the same as disposing of anything else containing lead, but each state and community waste disposal methods can differ. Contact local authorities to learn more. Methods range from triple-bagging or plastic containers, to taking the contaminated dust to household hazardous waste disposal centers. Some states allow lead waste to be thrown in the regular trash, but think of the ethical dilemma that could pose, especially if your community burns its trash.
Shop-vacs can be fitted with Hepa filters but one probably won’t completely protect you from exposure to lead dust. This is because filters for home-grade shop vacs (as opposed to contractor-grade) tend to be made for a lower standard than what is normally required for lead. Still, there is debate on this issue. Some experts say that while not perfect, a HEPA shop-vac solution is reasonable.
Another safety practice is damp-mopping to contain dust. Also, learn how to use all unfamiliar equipment before jumping into the job.