Reducing lead hazards in the home

Row of homes

Keeping the home clean and free of lead hazards is one way to reduce exposure to lead in the home. The U.S. EPA offers tips on keeping homes clean:

  • If you rent, notify your landlord of peeling or chipping paint.
  • Clean up paint chips immediately.
  • Clean floors, window frames, window sills, and other surfaces weekly. Use a mop, sponge, or paper towel with warm water and a general all-purpose cleaner or a cleaner made specifically for lead. Remember: never mix ammonia and bleach products together since they can form a dangerous gas.
  • Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads after cleaning dirty or dusty areas.
  • Wash children's hands often, especially before they eat and before nap time and bed time.
  • Keep play areas clean. Wash bottles, pacifiers, toys, and stuffed animals regularly.
  • Keep children from chewing window sills or other painted surfaces.
  • Clean or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from soil.
  • Make sure children eat healthy and nutritious meals as recommended by the National Dietary Guidelines. Children with good diets absorb less lead.

Additional steps:

  • You can temporarily reduce lead hazards by taking actions such as repairing damaged painted surfaces and planting grass to cover soil with high lead levels. These actions are not permanent solutions and will need ongoing attention.
  • To permanently remove lead hazards, you must hire a certified lead "abatement" contractor. Abatement (or permanent hazard elimination) methods include removing, sealing, or enclosing lead-based paint with special materials. Just painting over the hazard with regular paint is not enough.
  • Always hire a person with special training for correcting lead problems—someone who knows how to do this work safely and has the proper equipment to clean up thoroughly. Certified contractors will employ qualified workers and follow strict safety rules set by their state or the federal government.
  • Contact the National Lead Information Center (NLIC) for help with locating certified contractors in your area and to see if financial assistance is available.

(From US EPA website)

Lead hazard control

In addition to proper cleaning methods to reduce exposure to lead in the home, a property or home owner may choose to temporarily (mitigation) or permanently (abatement) control lead hazards.

Interim controls, called "mitigation," are temporary and generally include:

  • Repairing rotted or damaged underlying layers that cause paint damage;
  • Fixing floors and interior window sills and window wells so that they are smooth and cleanable;
  • Covering lead-based paint on high-use surfaces, such as stairs and floors, or repairing windows and doors so that they open easily to avoid creating lead-based paint chips or high levels of lead dust;
  • Covering lead-based paint on or blocking access to surfaces within reach of children
  • Covering or blocking access to all bare soil containing high levels of lead; and
  • Cleaning surfaces to reduce lead dust, including cleaning carpets.
  • Cleaning surfaces below five feet that small children may put their mouths on, including but not limited to wall corners, doors, stairs, railings, windows, baseboards, and chair rails; and
  • Parts of windows (with sills below five feet) that move or touch moving parts.

Permanent controls include lead abatement. It is recommended that a licensed lead contractor do the abatement work. Homeowners, however, can do the following:

  • Cover surfaces with painted with lead-based paint by using paneling, plywood, fabrics, or other coverings that block access to the lead-based paint.
  • Remove paint from surfaces by wet scraping or stripping, or sanding with a HEPA filter.

In Chicago, contact the Department of Public Health, (312) 747-LEAD (5323) for information on a Lead-Safe Work Practice (LSWP) training.

For more information on how to properly renovate a pre-1978 home, view the EPA's Lead Safe Guide to Renovate Right (April 2010) brochure.

Finding a lead safe contractor

If your home was built before 1978, the Illinois Department of Public Health has a searchable list of lead-safe contractors who do lead abatement as well as lead-safe renovation and remodeling work.

If your home was built before 1978, be sure that the lead contractor has been trained under the EPA's new Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule. Find an RRP-certified renovator in your area. Find an EPA accredited trainer (for contractors).

In all instances, make sure the contractor you hire knows about and uses lead-safe work practices.

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Additional information for…
Property owners
  • The do's and don'ts of home renovation
  • What to look for in a lead contractor
  • How to find a lead contractor
  • Required disclosures to tenants
Tenants
  • Right of inspection
  • Right of notification of lead hazards
  • Notifying landlords about possible lead in homes
  • If a landlord won't address a lead hazard
Childcare providers
  • Childcare provider responsibilities
  • Educational information
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