Most Australian residential dwellings built before 1970 were coated with paints that contained lead. Exposure to even small amounts of lead in old paint coatings presents a serious health risk, to both the occupant(s) and to any contractor, if and when the old paint coatings are disturbed by either hand or power tools. Dangerous levels of lead may be present in paint dust, paint flakes or paint waste which if swallowed or inhaled, can be very harmful to humans.
Lead in paint
Lead was used prior to 1970 as a primary pigment in house paints, industrial paints and in automotive paints. It was also present in other additives. Lead containing ingredients are not
normally capable of evaporating from the paint film. They remain quite safely locked in place as long as the paint film is not disturbed.
Once disturbed by dry sanding and/or scraping, however, the dust and debris created will be lead-contaminated, which must be contained and disposed of in accordance with established best practice. The fine particles created by the sanding process, make the lead more easily ingested by mouth and nose.
The dangers of lead
Lead is a heavy metal poison that accumulates in the body. Children, pregnant women or nursing mothers should be kept well away from surfaces or areas where lead-paint is being disturbed and any contact with lead-paint dust and debris should be avoided. If exposure to lead has occurred or is suspected, then see a doctor for a blood test to determine what action is needed.
Before any maintenance work or surface preparation of old paintwork commences, thorough testing should first be carried out to detect if lead is present or not. If lead is detected, stringent precautions will need to be employed to prevent any contact with lead-paint dust and debris so engaging an MPA trained and qualified professional contractor is highly recommended.
Safe practices for lead paint
- Don’t dry sand or dry scrape by hand tool or by a power tool.
- Don’t sandblast or high-pressure water wash/blast.
- Don’t use heat guns or open flame burners to remove old paint.
- Don’t eat, drink or smoke in the work area containing lead waste.
- Avoid working outside on wet or windy days when removing old paint.
- Remove and contain all contaminated clothing before leaving the work area.
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before doing anything else.
We recommend engaging a professional if you suspect lead paint in your property. We carry out these tests as part of our standard inspection process. For a free inspection and quotation, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org