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Bay Area Green Remodeling and Lead in Your Older Home

There are so many benefits to green home remodeling: reducing your energy expenses, improving indoor air quality, using sustainable products, and more. One critical component that you won't find on most green remodeling discussions is lead-safe deconstruction practices. If your home was built prior to 1978, it might contain lead:

87% of homes built prior to 1940 contain lead
69% of homes built between 1940 and 1960 contain lead
24% of home built between 1960 and 1978 contain lead

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. Lead-paint poisoning affects over one million children today. Adverse health effects include learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and speech delays. If not done in a lead-safe manner, renovations and repair activities that disturb lead-based paint can expose children, as well as adults, to harmful levels of lead dust. Fortunately, the EPA has established guidelines on how to deal with lead in their new Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule, which took effect on April 22, 2010.

The RRP rule includes a training program for contractors to become lead-safe certified. Renovation contractors, electricians, HVAC specialists, plumbers, painters and maintenance staff who disrupt more than six square feet of lead paint and do not comply with the rule are subject to stiff fines. Although the RRP rule took effect in April 2010, to allow more contractors to become certified, the EPA will not be enforcing certification training until late 2010. Furthermore, many building departments, even those with green-building requirements, are not checking for lead-safe certified firm certification.

The good news is that, as a consumer, you have a choice to hire a lead-safe certified firm that will perform the appropriate lead testing on your home prior to deconstruction and address any lead issues if found. You can learn more about renovating your older home through the EPA's Renovate Right Brochure:

Significant portions of this article were taken directly from the EPA website.
Bill Fry
Wm. H. Fry Construction Company (licensed general contractor #520785)
EPA Lead-Safe Certified Firm (#NAT-46691-1)
Certified Green Building Professional