Looking for Lead-Based Paint

Lead Paint

On a lark, I started a search for some real lead-based paint.

I recall vividly during our RRP training that lead-based paint is out there and still being used. In fact, paint can still be manufactured with lead for industrial applications or residential use as long as it does not exceed .06% or 60 PPM.

So off I went to my local paint vendors and manufacturers of industrial coatings…no luck. I thought I would try our local train manufacturer, Motive Power…no luck.  Then I tried the highway district…no luck. They stated that it was good stuff, but have not used it in 20 years. I swear, I recall that the yellow in the painted asphalt lines was leaded… not so.

I even spoke with an old friend of mine in the steel erection business who reports that lead paint is no longer used.  On and on my search went…without any luck.

Finally, I spoke with an industrial paint manufacturer.  He seemed to be a genuine fossil of the industry. He recalls making many thousands of gallons of it for the military. It was orange and used as primer for ships.  It was good stuff. The Golden Gate Bridge, which I thought for sure was leaded, is not, according to him.  He says “…that no one is willing to deal with the regulations and safety concerns. The industry has found adequate alternatives to using lead.”

Golden Gate Bridge

My source spent some time as a consultant to Chinese manufacturing operations overseas and was stunned to see that they are using leaded paint today.

He reported that there was tons of it all over the place – specifically, yellow and orange.  Further, he said that the people doing the work were oblivious to the dangers. In fact, he said that their belief was that the lead was in the solvents they were using so they were cutting back on the solvents. He also said that we should be suspicious about everything coming out of China especially anything orange or yellow and therefore green too.

The bottom line – while we in the United States can still use a limited amount of lead in our paint manufacturing processes, I could not find anyone in the industry that is. If you know anyone that is manufacturing lead-based Paint, please let me know.


New links to EPA Information


The EPA has identified that there was a problem with getting reliable information out to those that want to use contractors that are certified firms. here is the new link to Certified Firms. I discovered that my firm was not correct and had to make a phone call to correct it. Fortunately it only took a day to fix.

They have also added a searchable link to link to FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions designed to help both the client and the contractor find the answers we need to do things right.

Finally they also posted a link to how to handle leaded components when it comes to natural disasters which hopefully will not occur any time soon.

Pressure Washing Leaded Homes

Pressure washing

A unusual question arose today that caught me off guard. Does pressure washing a leaded home require an RRP certified  person to do it?

The problem arose when the painters helper arrived to wash the house. There isn’t any deteriorated paint to speak of and we are just rinsing off dirt prior to painting a stucco house.

We held off till we could get and official answer.

My common sense says that we are not disturbing leaded paint however, my lead conscious paranoid self says it is probably better safe than sorry and we are going to have the RRP certified contractor do the washing with proper signage.

Turns out we were right and here is the low down I received from a confidential informant within the EPA.

Just like the RRP rule allowing contractors to do lead work if the intent is to remodel.  Leaded components are removed incidentally during the process so therefor it does not require an abatement contractor.  If the intent is to abate leaded components then an abatement contractor is required.

We must ask …What is the intent? in Pre 78 homes unless lead tested and proven to not be leaded follow these simple guidelines and you will be safe.

#1 If the intent is to wash the house… use a garden hose and wash the house. Lets face it, pressure washing disturbs paint regardless of the intent. No problem  get the dirt off and move on. collect any paint chips that might have incidentally come off.

#2 If the intent is to prepare to paint the home … Do it with an RRP certified contractor and abide by the RRP rules.

Garden hose washing

It has been suggested that we can use a landscaping cloth to catch any chips that might fall off would be caught but the water would filter through. The premise is that water that sits in leaded material gathers lead(Like water in leaded pipes…if it flows through it never gets contaminated.) This makes sense to me.

Just imagine where the paint chips are going when you are washing anything. Obviously this photo above is an old one, there had better be  a bunch of protection or surely you will be causing a mess in the entire neighborhood not to mention the lack of PPE. I suppose it could have been tested and proven unleaded… regardless it will still be making a huge mess.

OSHA and Lead

Occupational Health & Safety Administration

OSHA has a set of rules that has been around long before RRP that is designed to protect workers. The EPA’s RRP rule is to protect the environment and the health of the occupants and HUD has its rule to deal with housing. I posted a nice piece on the differences here

The OSHA piece is very interesting to me so I am exploring what all is required to comply and how to practically implement a program oriented to the remodeling industry called Lead in Construction.

So far, Saint Luke’s Occupational Health has a program that is in place for industrial workers for medical monitoring and has expressed interest in working together.

BSU has and environmental program and although they have reduced there ability to provided services to the community. Dr. Stevenson provided me great information and resources for air monitoring instruments.

Lead Locators has also found a lab in the area that will process the air filter cartridges

The best part is I feel we have a partner in OSHA that wants to work with us to come up with a workable solution.

Lead Free

At the moment I believe that the remodeling industry as a whole is reeling from the RRP rule. Additionally they have that deer in the headlights look about OSHA’s Lead in Construction rule. While neighboring states seem to pick up on these things quicker we here in Idaho are gradually catching up. I recall the joke about entering Idaho and seeing the sign… Welcome to Idaho, please turn your watch back 10 years”

Perhaps when the dust settles (so to speak) the big 3 governmental agencies will consolidate their rules on lead into a comprehensive one that covers housing. In the mean time we are scrambling to catch up and provide the resources and answers to our remodeling clients and homeowners. All the while helping folks understand what is required of them and how to get on board.

Garage doors and RRP

Old Garage Door

I recently received my second request for clarifying the RRP rules. A Boise Idaho contractor who specializes in garage door replacement was unclear about the proper cleaning of a garage post deconstruction. Fortunately he was directed to me by a fellow NARI contractor who understands my ability to untangle these sorts of things.  Having gone to an RRP class that left him with more questions than answers he like many of us are going overboard to do proper dust protection. Within a few minutes it was clear that he was going above and beyond with vertical containment and vacuuming down studs. Not that any harm is done by that but to stay competitive, following the intent of the law is adequate. We all know however that every situation is a little different and we need guidance to make good decisions. I hope this helps clarify what is at best a difficult topic to digest.

Here is what I instructed him.

1. First do the proper paperwork and notifications, next put on PPE. Personal Protective Equipment and place proper signage.

2. Next he lays down heavy plastic that runs beneath the door and extends at least 5′ in either direction.

3. Then all he is doing is unbolting panels and removing the stops.

4. He then he wraps each individual piece in that wrap palatalized stuff is held together with.

5. After scoring the stops, he removes them and places them on the plastic.

6. Next he polices the area for paint chips that can be picked up from the area, a vacuum may help. (He is responsible for paint chips even though he did not create them) He places the chips on the plastic and wraps everything up. Viola he can remove his PPE’s and signage then install the new door with new stop.

I received confirmation from the EPA that this is the proper garage door technique and am passing on some additional helpful information from the EPA.

QUESTION: For purposes of cleaning the work area following a renovation, is the interior floor of a garage considered interior or exterior space?

The Old and the New

EPA Answer: In general, the interior floor of a garage is considered an interior space for purposes of post-renovation cleanup. EPA recognizes the fact that it may occasionally be impossible for firms to meet all of the cleaning and verification requirements under the Rule for garage floors such as those that are composed of dirt or gravel. In such a case, EPA recommends that a firm document and keep records of the specific circumstances surrounding the impossibility. A firm must also make their best effort to collect and remove all paint chips, dust, debris and residue. Furthermore, a firm must still comply with all feasible work practice standards and take precautions to ensure that the work area is properly contained

QUESTION: My firm replaces garage doors. We unbolt the door from its hardware and remove it without penetrating, scraping, or removing paint. Is this work subject to the RRP Rule?

EPA Answer: If unbolting and removing the door does not disturb a painted surface in the hinges, door, or frame, the RRP Rule does not apply.

QUESTION: My firm removes and replaces garage doors. The garage doors are typically made up of multiple panels, each of which has an exterior painted surface area of less than 20 square feet. Aggregated, the exterior painted surface area of all the panels exceeds 20 square feet. If we disturb the paint on just one of the door panels, is that activity subject to the RRP Rule?

EPA Answer: An activity that disturbs less than 20 square feet of exterior painted surface and otherwise meets the definition of minor repair and maintenance is not subject to the RRP Rule. However, the RRP Rule provides that when removing painted components, or portions of painted components, the entire surface area removed is the amount of painted surface disturbed. In this case, application of the RRP Rule is dependent on how much of the garage door your firm intends to remove and replace. If you disturb a painted surface on a single panel while removing and replacing the entire garage door (i.e., all the panels), you must aggregate the surface area of all the panels. Similarly, if you disturb a painted surface on a single panel while removing and replacing more than one panel, you must aggregate the surface area of those panels being removed to determine whether or not the RRP Rule applies. If, however, you disturb a painted surface on a single panel while removing and replacing only that panel, and the activity disturbs less than 20 square feet of exterior painted surface and otherwise meets the definition of minor repair and maintenance (e.g., not demolition or using prohibited practices), such an activity would be considered minor repair and maintenance, and therefore would not be subject to the RRP Rule.

Laurie Fay
US Environmental Protection Agency Region 10

Leaded Child event review

On or about 12-23-2010 I received an alarming call from a mother of a 4 year old girl from Northern Idaho that started out with a request to borrow my XRF analyzer to find out what was causing her child to be lead poisoned.

generic child

I asked how her child was and she went on to say that she had been to the doctor for seizures and they discovered that she was poisoned by lead among other toxic elements and were not sure what to do.

I asked what the blood lead level was and they said 26. I said that they needed to go the Emergency Department immediately assuming that it was an EBLL of 26 mcg/DL. That was when her husband got on the phone and said it was a Naturopath and they had tested her hair for lead, and that the child was behaving normally now. There was a suspicion of correlation between seizures and fever.

They said that they live near the edge of the Silver Valley a well known EPA Super Fund Site and that they felt that the local establishment was confused about what was causing her seizures.  The parents were frustrated and trying to take matters into their own hands to find out what in the environment is polluting the child. They also had a lingering fear of having their child taken away from them.

Turns out that they had contacted a sales representative for the analyzer that I own and he had in turn referred the family to me.

I explained the XRF analyzer is a sophisticated scientific tool and that they would need training but that I wanted to help get them get the correct information and local help.

I was approaching the problem from several angles.

Medically, I wanted to know the relationship of blood to hair sampling. I also wanted the family to know that alternative medicine is a real thing, but that if their child is being over diagnosed that unnecessary Chelation has side effects too. I quickly made contact with the Silver Valley lead establishment and they offered all the assistance for free that was needed. They also said that when they were established nearly 20 years ago it was not uncommon to see a 20mcg/BLL

My Home State

Environmentally I explained that proper hand hygiene and eliminating hand to mouth contact was important, especially with painted toys and dust and dirt was hazardous. I recommended a healthy diet rich in Iron and Calcium, I also wanted to know that they hadn’t been giving the child alternative medicines that may contain clay or dirt. Or Mexican candies, they did not have lead hobbies like stained glass or bullet reloading, some common unusual leaded things. They assured me that they lived in a 5 year old home and were on a municipal water system and that they only used well water for irrigation, and that they were not giving the child any weird medicines or potions. They did however state that they had a spa and that the agent that they used to clarify the water had a proprietary mixture of chemicals.

I requested and received the hair sampling results that were produced by a lab in Utah in August of 2010 so my anxiety level dropped a bit. Then I asked Lead-Net what the relationship of hair sampling was to blood and I also checked into the accuracy of hair sampling. Turns out it is often a 10:1 ratio and that hair sampling is wildly inaccurate because of the potential for surface contamination and destroying hair during the sample preparation phase.

In speaking with our medical director he agreed that blood testing is the only recognized test that is used to base treatment upon.

After constant nagging and sending them excerpts from many articles and e-mails they did have their child’s blood tested in January and it came back at .26mcg/DL  and I happened to know the western medicine DO that they chose to use. The strong suspicion was hair toxicity was caused by topical exposure to chemicals related to the new spa.

Was it a false alarm… Perhaps? It was a good practice run and I felt gratified that it only took a month to resolve.

I received some happy for good news E-Mails, and some angry E-Mails when I posted the news that the child was safe. Turns out the Silver Valley Lead folks take this stuff very seriously and felt they should have been more involved. The most interesting response was from a guy that also doubted me and was critical of several statements on my web site. I answered him politely thanked him for his comments and he in turn revealed his identity to me. He was the guy that everyone who has taken a RRP class saw in the video… As he said… “I’m the Idiot that leaded my own kids.” 15 years ago. We are friends now.

Lead in Ceramic Tiles and Tubs

There has been lots of chatter about lead in tiles and if RRP includes precautions for dealing with proper protections. I finally got a “Forever For Now” straight answer to the million dollar question. It is my long held belief the lead in tiles and other components which is found with XRF technology,  is a huge potential problem for renovators. Here is the question and the EPA’s response to that question.

leaded tile

The project is to remodel a child’s bathroom in a home built before 1978. Components to be disturbed include ceramic floor tile, a bathtub and shower stall, drywall and wood trim. The only lead is in the ceramic materials, which will be significantly damaged by impact during removal.

Here is the question – Does the Certified Renovator have to control and clean any lead dust/debris hazards generated from the disturbance of the ceramic components prior to the child or parents re-occupying the bathroom?


The RRP Rule applies only to renovations (i.e., disturbances of “paint or other surface coatings”) in target housing or child-occupied facilities. See 40 CFR 745.82.  The term “surface coating,” as defined in the regulations banning lead-based paint, specifically excludes those materials which are actually bonded to the substrate, such as ceramic glazing.  See 16 CFR 1303.2.   As such, the reach of the RRP Rule does not extend to disturbances of ceramic glaze on tiles, bathtubs, and showers.  EPA nevertheless recommends that renovators use lead safe work practices when working with any materials known or likely to contain lead.  As a practical matter, contractors should understand that the inapplicability of the RRP Rule will not shield them potential civil liability if they fail to contain, clean or otherwise knowingly expose residents or workers to lead hazards. In addition to the glazed surfaces of the tile, bathtub, and shower, the above fact scenario indicates that drywall and wood trim will also be disturbed.  If the project will disturb more than 6 square feet of interior painted surface or other surface coating on the drywall or wood trim, the RRP Rule would apply and the certified renovator would need to implement RRP work practices, including those for containment, cleaning, and cleaning verification.


Ryan Schmit

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

At Lead Locators we always test the tiles & tubs  and explain to renovators and home owners that to do it right, they must treat leaded tiles as if they were any other leaded component. Carefully deconstruct in a dustless way to be safe.

NARI Letter to the EPA

I was fortunate enough to be allowed a guest blog on Sean Mccaden’s RRPedia site and received plenty of responses some of which made sense and others not. One of the most interesting comments came in the form of a video clip from Fox News “The Sky is Falling Channel” in the piece they interview a guy that is fairly knowledgeable about RRP and said that in his industry costs would be elevated about 10%. The fox folks went on to cut away and insert their bias into “the news” The bottom line is that their poisonous speech and anti establishment leaning  is causing fulminating anti RRP fervor. Sadly, some remodelers around the country are on board with the ” throw the bums out” mentality. I spoke with Chuck Norris a fellow lead tester in Saint Louis MO. who spoke to a local NARI chapter that attendees were acting/ speaking like renegades and wanting to duck the regulations. I will be gathering comments from my fellow NARI members in the North West to share with NARI National in an effort to reflect the views of the membership with the ultimate goal of letting the EPA know where NARI as an organization of Professional Remodelers stands. I hope that we can stick together as adults and put our thoughts on paper. I found this letter on line sent a few months ago that was the opinion at the time but things are ever changing.

January 11, 2011

The Honorable Lisa Jackson
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Washington, DC 20460

Re:  Enforcement of Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule

Dear Administrator Jackson:

On behalf of the 7,000 companies that belong to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), I am writing to encourage the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to aggressively and fairly enforce the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) rule.

NARI is a non-profit trade association based in Des Plaines, Illinois.  We have 58 Chapters in major metro areas nationwide and our membership is comprised of remodeling contractors, local suppliers, and national suppliers.  83 percent of NARI members have fewer than 20 employees.  NARI’s core purpose is to advance and promote the remodeling industry’s professionalism, product and vital public purpose.

As you know, EPA postponed enforcement of LRRP last summer to allow for contractors to receive training.  The agency set December 31, 2010 as the training deadline for remodelers who do work on homes built before 1978.  In our view, now that the initial training deadline has passed, EPA must aggressively and consistently enforce the LRRP rule so families can have confidence that work on their homes is being done safely and professionally.

NARI is proud to represent some of the most highly trained and certified remodelers in the business.  NARI members voluntarily subscribe to a strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice and we deliver rigorous education and certification programs.  When EPA finalized LRRP in August of 2008, NARI made it a top priority to inform our members of their responsibilities and to direct members to trainers so they could be certified.  NARI members received information on LRRP via numerous article in our main membership publication, The Remodelers Journal; NARI’s e-newsletter, The Spec Sheet; and in our e-notice, Tuffin’ It Out.  NARI published and distributed Issue Briefing Papers, and we continue to devote space to the LRRP on NARI’s Web site, www.nari.org/leadsafety.

We recognize that over 400,000 professionals have been trained in lead-safe work practices. NARI and other professional trade and membership organizations joined EPA in public education campaigns on LRRP, and a growing list of states are qualified to run LRRP.  However, non-certified contractors are working on pre-1978 homes in violation of LRRP, and we are concerned that such illegal activity will continue unless EPA launches a tough enforcement campaign.  Non-certified contractors who do work on pre-1978 homes heighten the risk of lead exposure and threaten the economic viability of remodelers who made the investment to become EPA-certified.  In our view, the only way for EPA to address the problem of non-certified contractors is to aggressively and publicly enforce the LRRP rule and to push authorized states to do the same.

NARI would like to work with you to publicize EPA’s enforcement efforts and maximize the campaign’s impact.  Through a public enforcement strategy, we can lessen harmful exposure to lead during construction and we can drive more homeowners towards certified contractors when they consider remodeling projects.


Mary Busey Harris, CAE
Executive Vice President

A Small Victory

I just received a letter in response to an E-Mail to the Mayor. He must have delegated Jenifer Gilliland, Building Division Manager, City of Boise to respond. Here is what I wrote:

I am a General Contractor in town and am interested in having a slight change applied to the residential building application. As of April 22, 2010 there is a new federal rule that involves Lead Based Paint Hazard control for all homes built prior to 1978 and child occupied facilities. The EPA has maintained enforcement of the rule called RRP in Idaho and to date, there has been little awareness or information put out by the EPA. The Boise City Building Departments mandate is to protect the citizens of the community through building code enforcement but they are stuck. I would like to make a few recommendations and open a dialog about the subject. I believe your guidance will set the tone for how this community deals with RRP. I write as a NARI member and EPA certified Risk Assessor. Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.

Here is her response:

Response from the city

Although the Response does not directly answer the question, or invite a dialog, it is a small victory for me because on the 3rd bullet point it clearly states that they will add a sentence stating that work done on pre-1978 homes must be done by an EPA certified renovator.

I applaud the City Of Boise for taking this baby step forward! There are those in the Building Department that understand the federal rule and are taking it upon themselves to educate and pass out information and tho them I say BRAVO! They sent employees to the RRP Training and to them I say BRAVO! I see this as a small victory of sorts because it is difficult to affect change in government and to the extent that we got the ball rolling it is much easier now to keep it rolling. (One need only to look at the Middle East)  The list of things that could be done without cost to the city is extensive. I do not expect the Building Department to come up with ideas to add work to their plate without being compensated, however precedence has been established with any number of requirements see responsible person. Requiring folks to follow building codes etc.  The building department’s mandate is to protect the citizens, Lead paint is a hazard to health, and it exists in older homes. Surely a Blue Ribbon Panel on the subject could be assembled and discuss the city’s response to the situation. I am happy that some progress has been made, I am disappointed that the initiative to update our processes does not currently dwell within the Building Departments walls. Other cities have instituted ordinances to deal with lead based paint issues already so there are plenty of role models out there. Unfortunately, I was told that the city’s attorneys are advising the city to take no action in an effort to sidestep enforcement of the Federal Rule. As a temporary strategy I can see it working ( the old head in the sand routine). As a city government that is charged and responsible to care about its citizens, I believe it is flawed. I will continue my efforts and hope to attract others to join in  the debate.

The NARI Journal

I was recently contacted by Morgan Zenner who is a writer for the NARI organization, She got word that I was trying to work with the EPA to get lead testing going in our region as Lead Locators a spin off of my remodeling business. There seems to be a rift developing among the nations remodelers that Shawn McCadden was able to help me realize. I have divided them into 3 distinct groups.
1 Those companies that are incorporating the RRP Rule into their operations through education and are using the rule as a strength that sets them apart from their competition.
2 Those that got certified, rarely do older home remodels, and make and find the RRP rule onerous but try to comply because it is the law.
3 Those that don’t know and don’t want to know about RRP and are in fear of the government ruining their livelihood. One fine could easily do that.

The passions are running high, lets face it the RRP Rule is changing the way we do business. I recently attended a Responsible Person certification class and the excavation community has worked with the EPA for years and gets it. Municipalities have incorporated the Best Management Practices BMP into their operations and everyone is on a level playing field. Our river used to have rats running on the banks and raw sewage pumped into it. Now it is a beautiful place where our green belt is a highlight of the community.

I think the RRP Rule was poorly implemented but understand that it was a 10 year long process that was stuck in committee essentially so rather than postpone it again. They put it out and it is now a work in progress that is evolving into a solid policy. I have my gripes too, my primary one is that as a guideline it would have been easier to work with IE. DO DUSTLESS DEMOLITION AND CLEAN UP AFTER YOUR SELF.  Similar to the Responsible Person requirements contractors would be held responsible to eliminate lead paint dust but would be allowed to experiment with what works best for them. Focusing on results is what I believe BMP is all about. Lets face it, the rule does not take into account all of the types of situations that effect each specialty contractor weather is a prime example. That being said I for one am staying engaged and am trying to be an agent for constructive criticism.

Although I am running my business with the RRP flag attempting to set myself apart, I am understanding of the others.

My concern is that NARI contractors need to make a decision to either follow the rules, or decide not to work on pre-1978 homes.

I was recently asked to do a NARI sponsored presentation. I had it done by one of my fellow lead risk assessors at Lead Locators.

How are we as a group of Professional  Remodelers going to ensure we are keeping lead dust out of our work sites without verification? I urge my fellow NARI members to be vocal, do the best that you can. Test ahead of time or assume it is all leaded and verify your doing it correctly during the project and at the end. Perhaps we need to have an internal Lead Compliance Officer or committee that verifies appearance to the RRP rule. I will make a suggestion next opportunity I get.

I applaud those that are working to solve our problems and confusions between agencies like OSHA.

I am pleased that there is a national discussion going on. I am anxious to see how states that are taking on the rule are adapting it to meet their individual needs.

I thank the Lead Community for being so involved and encourage them to stay vigilant so that the gains that were made are not lost over budget deficits and economic downturns.

Bottom line is that Morgan did a nice job of putting my story together. As a bonus she contacted the EPA and interviewed Laurie Fay to support the article. The implementation of RRP has been rocky to say the least.

I challenge The EPA to quickly get to word out to the public about RRP. I challenge the Remodeling Industry to work with the EPA to improve the nuts and bolts of the RRP program. I also challenge our industry to be leaders and agents for eduction just like the ones that have mentored me while I evolved from a “lemonade stand” into a real business. Cheers.