Lead Removal

Information on Lead Removal for residential and commercial buildings

    • Lead-Safe Renovation Tips

    • Parents

    • Renovation & Remodeling

    • Homeowners

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Lead dust is the #1 cause of lead poisoning, not paint chips. All it takes is as much dust as can be found in the packet of sugar you put in your coffee. If your home was built before 1978, you may create lead dust by disturbing subsurface layers of lead paint during home improvement projects.

What is the Keep It Clean Campaign?

The disturbance of lead paint that occurs during home improvement and painting poses a serious threat to the health of adults and children. Many homeowners undertaking painting and home improvement projects are unaware that when they break painted surfaces tiny lead particles can be released - too small even to see.

Keep It Clean Brochure (English) Keep It Clean Brochure (Spanish)

The Keep It Clean Campaign aims to help New Englanders understand the simple measures they can take to avoid lead poisoning during home improvement projects. The educational messages of the campaign focus on easy steps that can make home projects lead-safe:

    1. Contain the area.

    2. Minimize the creation of dust. By working wet and using less hazardous methods, less dust is created.

    3. Do a thorough clean-up at the end of the job. Use wet cleaning like mops and cloths, along with a HEPA vacuum if available, to collect lead dust and paint chips.

    4. Test for dust. Use a dust sampling kit or have a certified worker take dust samples after the renovation work is done. This will let you know that any lead dust that may have been released throughout the work has been sufficiently cleaned up and won't pose a health risk for your family.

As part of the campaign, New England Lead Coordinating Committee (NELCC) members form partnerships with hardware stores all over New England. The store employees are trained on lead-safe renovation techniques and how to help customers with questions on lead safety. Stores also receive free brochures, posters and carpenter pencils to hand out to their customers. By helping customers as they prepare to begin their job, they will be aware of the need for lead safety. Customers can then in turn use the lead safe techniques on their jobs to protect themselves and their families from lead poisoning.

Where Lead is Likely to be a Hazard

Lead can be found in paint on homes that were built before 1978. The Consumer Products Safety Commission banned the use of lead-based paint after that year. If your home was built before 1960, then it probably has even more lead paint. Peeling, chipping, chalking or cracking lead-based paint is a hazard and needs immediate attention. Lead-based paint may also be a hazard when found on surfaces that children can chew or that gets a lot of wear-and-tear. Constant friction or rubbing of surfaces can cause paint to deteriorate. These areas include:

    • Windows and window sills

    • Doors and door frames

    • Stairs, railings and banisters

    • Porches and fences

    • Exterior of a house (due to harsh weather)

Potentially Hazardous Renovation Activities

    • Dry scraping or dry sanding

    • Sandblasting

    • Using an open flame or torch to burn off paint

    • Power sanding or grinding (unless shrouded tool with HEPA vacuum attachment is used)

    • Using methylene chloride - it's toxic

    • Cutting into drywall

    • Replacing windows

Who is at risk for lead poisoning?

Children AND adults are at risk from lead poisoning. Lead is especially dangerous to children or pregnant women. During home improvement projects, do-it-yourselfers or contractors disturb lead-based paint on older homes. This work creates lead paint dust, chips or fumes that children and adults can easily ingest or inhale. This in turn can easily result in lead poisoning.

How does lead affect the body?

Lead has been shown to cause damage to the brain, blood-forming system and the kidneys. Lead may also cause fatigue, the inability to concentrate, abdominal pain, irritability and memory loss. Children with high levels of lead can suffer from damage to the brain and nervous system, behavior and learning problems (such as hyperactivity), slowed growth, hearing problems and headaches. Lead is also harmful for adults. Adults can suffer from difficulties during pregnancy, reproductive problems, high blood pressure, digestive problems, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems and muscle and joint pain.


Lead dust is the #1 cause of lead poisoning, not paint chips. All it takes is as much dust as can be found in the packet of sugar you put in your coffee. If your home was built before 1978, you may create lead dust by disturbing subsurface layers of lead paint during home improvement projects.

Subsurface layers of lead-based paint can be disturbed during renovations, even from modest activities such as sanding walls or putting in new windows. The fine lead dust - often invisible - can be extremely hazardous to the health of everyone exposed: children, pregnant woman and the workers themselves. While most people think paint chips are the sole culprit, paint dust is even more dangerous. It's easy to inhale and can land on carpeting, furniture, eating surfaces, and children's toys. Luckily, it's simple and easy to incorporate lead safety into painting and remodeling projects. Some simple methods, such as misting surfaces before sanding, containing the area and careful clean-up, can make a dramatic difference in reducing the risk of lead poisoning.

If you are worried about the presence of lead in your home and are hiring a contractor to do the work for you, ask if they are certified as a lead-safe or lead-smart renovator. Your state Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program can provide you with a list of certified renovators.

Here are some simple lead safe renovation tips to follow when you work on your home:

The Fuss About Dust. Choose work methods that create the least amount of dust.

    • Wet surfaces by misting, then hand sand or scrape

    • Use chemical strippers (but not those containing methylene chloride)

    • Use heat guns at a low-medium setting. (but don't use it temperatures above 700°F)

    • Consider buying or renting a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air filter) vacuum which can be used safely where there is lead dust

Play It Safe. Always follow these safety guidelines as you work.

    • Keep children and pregnant women out of the work area

    • Work on one room at a time

    • Remove as much furniture as you can from the room

    • Cover remaining furniture with 6 mil plastic securely taped in place

    • Close off the work area by taping 6 mil plastic over all doors, windows, the floor, ground, and other exposed surfaces

    • Turn off forced-air heating and air conditioning systems and cover vents with 6 mil plastic securely taped in place

    • Allow only workers to enter the area until the job is complete. Be careful not to track dust out of the work area

    • Don't eat, drink, or smoke while in the work area

    • Use a plant mister to wet the work surface before hand scraping and sanding

    • Mist drop cloths/plastic sheets before folding in or rolling up. Misting will suppress dust

    • If others do the work, ensure that they follow these work practices to protect your family's health and safety

The Right Stuff. Using the proper equipment will help you complete your job safely.

    • Protective equipment (such as safety glasses, disposable gloves, hat, shoe covers, protective clothing and NIOSH approved respirator for lead dust.)

    • 6 mil plastic drop cloths

    • Duct tape

    • Mops and buckets (two)

    • All purpose cleaner or cleaner made just for lead clean-up

    • Spray bottles/plant misters

    • Disposable rags or paper towels

    • Heavy duty plastic bags

    • HEPA vacuum (to locate a HEPA vacuum call participating agencies on the back of this pamphlet or refer to the yellow pages of the telephone book under "Safety Equipment and Clothing" or "Asbestos Removal Equipment & Supplies")

Leave the Scene Clean. Always clean up carefully at the end of each workday.

    • Change work clothes and shoes before leaving the work site

    • Wash hands and face immediately after leaving work area

    • Shower and wash hair as soon as possible after work/clean-up is completed

    • Wash work clothes separately from other laundry items

At Final Clean-up:

    • Mist all dust and chips and place in double plastic garbage bags

    • Mist drop cloths and carefully roll or fold inward (to keep the dust from flying around) and discard in double plastic garbage bags

    • Use two buckets, one with detergent and one with clean rinse water

    • In addition to the two bucket method use a HEPA vacuum, if available - If a HEPA vacuum is not available the two bucket method, if done carefully, should be sufficient

    • Wash floors, walls, window components, etc. with an all purpose cleaner and disposable or paper towels then rinse well

    • Change rinse water often

    • Dispose of towels in plastic bags

    • Never burn leaded debris or debris that contains paint chips or lead dust

Take It Off Slowly. NEVER use these dangerous paint removal method.

    • Don't dry scrape or dry sand (except near electrical outlets and switches)

    • Don't sandblast

    • Don't use an open flame or torch to burn off paint

    • Don't power sand or grind (unless shrouded tool with HEPA vacuum attachment is used)

    • Don't use methylene chloride - it's toxic

    • Don't use heat guns which operate over 700° F

Get the Lead out - Make sure to test for lead when your job is finished

    • Take dust samples to determine whether the final clean-up has been thorough.

    • Before taking a sample, contact the testing laboratory to get specific materials, instructions and paperwork.

    • Additionally, lead dust test kits are available in many hardware and paint stores

    • If you are an apartment owner or an independent contractor you may want to have an outside third party collect dust samples

Dust Sampling

It is recommended that three samples (the floor, a window sill and a window well) be taken in each room where work has been done.

For the floor:

    • Measure a 12" by 12" square (you may want to outline it with masking tape)

    • Place unpowdered disposable gloves on hands.

    • Take a moist baby wipe or towellette and wipe the area in an "S" pattern from top to bottom. (Avoid wipes that contain aloe or that are scented.)

    • Fold wipe with dirty side in.

    • Using the clean side, wipe the area in the same "S" pattern from side to side.

    • Place wipe in appropriate labeled container. (Contact laboratory for specific containers.)

For window wells and window sills:

    • Follow same process as above, but area does not have to be 12" by 12"

    • Measure length and width of the wiped area and record on the sampling form

    • Be sure to properly label sample containers and complete laboratory sampling form. Remember to change gloves between samples. Lead dust on gloves can contaminate samples.

For more information on these procedures or to locate a certified lead-safe renovator, contact your state health department.

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