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Lead Removal.

Lead Removal – Primary Source

1. Lead-based Paint in Housing

  • CSPC ban in 1978 (<0.06%)
  • million homes and 12 million children
  • Some household items that contain lead-contaminated dust hazards include:
    • imported vinyl mini-blinds
    • imported and antique toys and furniture

    Lead In Mini-Blinds

    Many vinyl mini-blinds manufactured in Mexico and Asia, which are imported and sold in the United States, contain lead. The lead in mini-blinds is used in the plastic as a stabilizer for rigidity and for color retention. These non-glossy, vinyl blinds eventually deteriorate from exposure to sunlight. During this deterioration, lead-contaminated dust forms on the surface of the blinds. This leaded dust can be a hazard to children if they put the blinds in their mouths, or if they put their hands on the blinds and the widow sills and then into their mouths.

2. Lead Dust

  • Sanding, scraping and burning
  • Young children and “hand to mouth activity”

3. Lead Contaninated Soil

  • Exterior paint chalking
  • washouts
  • deleading
  • leaded gasolines


Lead Contaminated SoilLead Hazard

Lead-contaminated soil abounds in playgrounds, parks and backyards. Lead-contaminated soil poses a threat when children play in it and put their hands or other objects covered with this soil into their mouths. There also is a health hazard when people bring this soil into the house on their clothing or shoes and the dust from that soil settles on the floors and other surfaces that people touch.

The greatest source of lead-contaminated soil is leaded gasoline. At one time the auto industry thought of leaded gasoline as a godsend, and it was burned in nearly every automobile. When this fuel burned, lead was released with the exhaust from the automobiles and settled on the ground. Although the federal government eliminated most use of leaded gas in the 1970s, approximately four to five million metric tons of lead once used in gasoline remains in U.S. soil.

Also, leaded paint sandblasted and scraped from buildings and bridges scatter lead chips and dust into the soil. Lead can enter the soil by runoff from the sides of homes and buildings due to chipping or weathering of leaded paint. Surfaces of old, outdoor clothesline poles and playground equipment may have been painted with lead-based paint. Lead-contaminated dust and paint chips from these surfaces can be hazardous when children play on them and then place their hands in their mouths. Leaded dust and paint chips from this equipment also can fall into and contaminate nearby soil.

Additionally, although now banned, pesticides that contained lead were once used in fruit orchards and now contaminates soil. Other industrial pollution, such as exhaust from incinerators burning lead-containing products, contaminates soil with leaded dust.


Lead-Based Paint On Toys and Furniture

It is important to note that furniture and toys that are not manufactured in the United States may not conform to lead standards. Also old or antique cribs, antique toys and furniture may have been painted with leaded paint.

4. Lead based Paint used throughout industrial and commercial facilities

  • Sanding, scraping and burning
  • Ordinary wear and tear in the couse of business

5. Lead Dust in manufacturing ie Brass Smelters

  • Heavy lead dust generate by the chemical processes
  • disposal site on property and off
  • bag house contamination and disposal of contents of baghouse
  • Some lead related jobs and work environments include:
    • battery manufacturing
    • automotive parts manufacturing
    • automotive repair
    • firing ranges
    • carpentry
    • chemical manufacturing
    • smelting & refining of nonferrous metals
    • plumbing
    • glass productions
    • demolition work
    • leaded paint abatement
    • brass/copper foundry
    • iron working*

    *Bridge, tunnel & elevated highway construction valve & pipe fitting

    Some lead related hobbies include:

    • making stained glass
    • making pottery
    • gun & rifle activities
    • refinishing furniture
    • renovating & remodeling homes
    • making fishing lures & sinkers



Lead makes up 2% of earth’s crust. Toxic effect recognized since colonial times; lead used in paints since 1870. Rain and ultraviolet light cause chalking off of paint into soil around the home. Lead sources include paint pigments, certain solders, automobile emissions, storage batteries, cable sheathing, alloys, lead mining and smelting, plumbing and insulation activities, ammunition, etc.. Over 120 occupations are exposed. 

In July of 1786, Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter (“The Famous Franklin Letter On Lead Poisoning“) in which he detailed his observations of the effects of lead on the body. Franklin wrote, “You will see by it, that the Opinion of this mischievous Effect from Lead, is at least above Sixty years old; and you will observe with Concern how long a useful Truth may be known, and exist, before it is generally receiv’d and practis’d on.”

Mr. Franklin’s observations were correct. It was not until 1978 that the federal government banned the use of lead-based paint in housing. Therefore, if you live in a home that was built before 1978, chances are good that it contains some lead-based paint. Dust and paint chips from leaded paint can cause serious health hazards. Lead chips and dust can get on surfaces and objects that people touch. Settled lead dust can reenter the air when people vacuum, sweep or walk through it.

Lead-based paint that is in good condition is generally not a health hazard. Leaded paint that is peeling, chipping, chalking or cracking can pose a serious health hazard and needs prompt attention. Removing lead paint improperly can increase the hazard to your family by spreading even more lead dust around the house. Precautions need to be taken before beginning remodeling or renovations on surfaces containing lead-based paint. Lead dust can form when lead-based paint is dry scraped, dry sanded or heated.

Dust also forms when painted surfaces bump or rub together. Lead-based paint found on surfaces that children chew or on surfaces that get a lot of wear-and-tear also can be a serious health hazard.

These areas, known as friction surfaces, include:

  • windows and window sills
  • stairs, railings and bannisters
  • doors and door frames
  • porches and fences

Usual Human Lead Exposure: Lead has no beneficial effect in animal tissues. Average daily intake of lead by general population of 0.4 mg./person/day. Ingested lead varies from 0.1 to 3 mg/day, while inhaled lead average .01 to .09 mg/day. If you don’t take in over 0.6 mg of lead per day by mouth, it will not be dangerous, as lead excretion will balance lead intake. Lead is excreted in urine and sweat.

Physiology of Lead in Body

By Inhalation:
Particles 0.5 microns reach alveoli and 30-50% is absorbed from lungs. If lead at .15 mg/meter3 in air is inhaled, those at or below .05 microns in diameter will plateau in body fluids about 8 months later if inhaled daily with 25-30 mg of lead retained. Ash from a cigarette contains 14 mcgm of lead; cigarette smoke itself = 0.5 mcgm. 8 mg of lead is absorbed per year from the lungs.

By Ingestion:
Average individual swallows 300 micrograms of lead per day. Only 10% of this is absorbed into the body. Lead is in water, in ribs, coca, ground corn or corn starch, etc. A child may absorb 50% of ingested lead. Increasing lead intake is followed by increased lead burden in the body – a cumulative effect with increasing toxicity. Low iron, calcium, and zinc intake increases lead absorption.

Fate in Body
Once absorbed, 90% is stored in bond as lead phosphate. The other 10% is taken up by the red blood cells, the brain, the kidneys, and the liver, where toxic effects develop. Average lead burden in body = 100-400 mg. Accumulation is slow, so that 1.3 mg daily will result in 65 mcmg% in 7-1/2 years, and 3.2 mcmg% daily will give 80 mcmg% in blood in one-half year.

90% put out in stool; 9% in urine; It takes twice as long to excrete lead as to absorb it. The one-half life of lead in body is 2 months. Lead excretion in the urine is usually below 80 mcmg/liter, but if over 180 mcmg per liter, removal from work site desirable.

“Normal” Blood Lead Values
Normal values are 2 – 8 mcmg%

Blood Lead =    15 = abnormal enzymes with ­FEP
30 = anemia, fatigue, dizziness
40 = ZPP up, wrist drip, conduction time slows, muscle weakness
50 = reproductive effects, anemia, brain injury, libido reduced
80 = abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, anorexia, coma, and convulsions.

Lead Levels in Industry
Lead Action Level:  30 micrograms per cubic meter of air over 8 hours
Permissible Exposure Level:  50 micrograms per cubic meter of air over 8 hours.


In Children

All children below the age of 7 should be screened for lead poisoning by blood lead and/or zinc protoporphyrin levels. Children develop decreased attention spans, impaired hearing, reading and learning disabilities, delayed cognitive development, reduce ID scores, mental retardation, seizures, coma, and death. Blood levels higher May to October. Child can eliminate only 5 mcgm/kilogram/day. Treatment includes preventing further lead ingestion, prevent convulsions, as 25% mortality occurs, and use of chelating agents cautiously.

In Adults

Rarely have brain effects. Blood formation impaired, anemia, easy fatigability, lassitude, dizziness, rapid heart beat, etc., noted. Neurological effects, include irritability, insomnia, headache, memory impairment, tremor, apathy, fatigue, depressions, drowsiness, stupor, delirium, convulsions, coma, peripheral nerve damage with wrist and occasionally foot drop, muscle tremors, abdominal colic, emesis, diarrhea, impaired real function, hypertension, gouty arthritis all occur. Reproductive effects include reduce libido, impotence, decreased healthy sperm in men and in women menstrual abnormalities, premature births, lower birth weights, more miscarriages, increased infant mortality, and behavioral abnormalities (over 50 – 60 mcgm%), hence, keep below 30 mcgm%.

Organic Lead Poisoning

Exposure to tetraethyl lead fumes, as in cleaning storage tanks. Effects occur within 1 – 8 days due to inhalation of fumes, and the absorption through the skin. Effects are acute = insomnia, lassitude, dreams, anxiety, tremor, muscular contractions, low blood pressure, low temperature, pallor, nausea, anorexia, hallucinations, hyperactivity, and seizures. Recovery is usually complete. High lead levels present in urine.

Laboratory Findings

Blood level elevated, ZPP and urine 24-hour lead excretion elevated. Occasionally must do a lead provocative excretion test for diagnostic purposes using calcium EDTA.

Treatment of Lead Poisoning

Never use prophylactic chelation, as certain risks are present. Remove from further lead exposure. May use saline cathartic, intravenous calcium gluconate to help colic, chelation therapy with calcium EDTA or penicillamine depending on severity or poisoning. Hospitalization and perhaps physiotherapy may be desirable. (Calcium disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid)

Costs of Lead Screening
Varies with Clinic and laboratory.


To insure the safety of all workers, LEC does the following Medical Surveillance.

In workers exposed to lead, this includes biological monitoring of worker’s blood lead and/or zinc protoporphyrin levels with pre-employment and follow-up tests including physical examinations to establish baseline values and appropriate medical removal and protection benefits for the worker. This includes early detection of increased body burden of lead, advising the employer of results as well as the worker, all at no cost to the worker. Job protection and benefits are guaranteed to the employee.

  • Periodic and Preplacement Medical Examinations
  • Written Medical Opinion
  • Medical Removal Protection
  • Medical Removal Protection Benefits

Since there are three ways that lead can enter the body (1) through the gastrointestinal tract via mouth; (2) through the skin; (3) through the respiratory system, LEC provides personal protective equipment and respiratory protection.

Accordingly, thorough decontamination procedures must be established and appropriate personal protective equipment must be used. Personal protective equipment should include respirators and protective coveralls.

Personal protective equipment is available from many manufacturers in a variety of forms. This availability and high level of protection has caused many employers and regulators to demand the use of such equipment instead of looking to ways and methods of controlling or eliminating the workplace hazard. Protective equipment has also been selected to combat hazards because it is far cheaper than installing and maintaining mechanical engineering controls. This cost effective approach to safety does have a serious weakness. Again these protective devices do nothing to reduce the hazard, then only offer protection against it. Failure to use an item or failure of the protective equipment itself will therefore result in worker exposure to hazardous materials. If worker safety is to be a consideration, protective equipment should only be used in conjunction with other work site controls, particularly when dealing with airborne hazards. Workers must be trained and taught about the limitations or protective equipment, how to wear it, how to maintain it, and how to select the equipment most appropriate for the job.

Personal Protection Equipment can be classified as follows:

Head Protection

  • Hard Hats
  • Hair Protection
  • Hearing Protection

Face and Eye Protection

  • Goggles
  • Glasses
  • Face Shields

Respiratory Protective Equipment

  • Air Purifying
  • Air Supplying

Hands and Feet

  • Hand and Foot Protectors
  • Gloves
  • Foot Protection
  • Boot Covers

Protective Clothing

  • Coveralls (reusable)
  • Coveralls (disposable)
  • Underwear (disposable)
  • Chemical Suits


A.  Restrict Entry to Work Area
B.  Prevent Unnecessary Exposure
C.  Select the Safest Method
D.  Wear Appropriate Protective Clothing and Safety Equipment
E.  Conduct Air Monitoring
F.  Follow safe Work Practices
G.  Contain Lead Dust and Debris Withing the Work Area
H.  Change Clothes and Wash Down
I.  Some Methods are UNSAFE

NEVER burn lead paint with an open flame torch. Burning procedures very high levels of lead dust and fumes. DO NOT sand lead paint. Sanding produces very high levels of lead dust.

J.  Work Safely with Chemicals

Follow the manufacture’s instructions carefully when using any chemical stripper. Any product which is strong enough to remove paint will probably be harmful to humans if not used properly.

Specific Abatement Considerations

A.  Choosing a Method
No one method works best for all lead abatement projects. You should carefully plan a method or combinations of methods which suits the structure you are de-leading. It should be taken into consideration the condition of the substance or material the paint is on. In most cases, it is best to replace old deteriorated windows or doors.

B.  Methods for Interior Areas

1. Woodwork

  • Replacement – This is the easiest and quickest way to get rid of lead paint. Windows and other woodwork which are in poor condition should be replaced with new materials.
  • Enclosure – Vinyl, aluminum or wood can be used to cover woodwork. Seams must be caulked or sealed.
  • Off-Site Chemical Stripping – When it is desirable to keep old, decorative trim, moldings, and doors, this method is recommended (i.e., dip tanks).
  • Electric Heat Guns – These are useful for very thick paint on flat surfaces but care should be used to contain the debris. Workers must wear respirators to protect themselves from the fumes.
  • Caustic Strippers – These may be effective on some surfaces. They are messy and usually must be followed by neutralizing the wood surface with a vinegar/water solution. This waste water must be contained and disposed of properly. Workers must wear respirators to protect them from the vapors.
  • HEPA Sanders – These are sanders used with special vacuums that filter out the very small lead particles that cause lead poisoning. Do not use other type of sander of filter.

2. Walls and Ceilings

  • Enclosure – Wet scrape loose material and cover with durable material that will not tear, chip or peel. Caulk seams if paneling issued. Sheet rock, vinyl wall coverings, and wood paneling area among the material which you may select.

3. Floors

  • Heat Gun – This is useful when floors need to be preserved for aesthetic reasons. This works best when paint is thick. Respirators are needed for worker protection.
  • Non-Flammable Chemical Strippers – When floors are to be preserved for aesthetic reasons this method can be used with care. Liquid waste must be disposed of properly.
  • HEPA Sander – Do not use other types of sanders or filters on lead paint.

C.  Methods for Exterior Areas

  • Vacuum Blasting – This method can be used on a variety of surfaces. Works best on flat surfaces. Respirators may be necessary. Debris must be contained and associated items protected.
  • Water Blasting – Waste water must be contained and properly disposed of. Respirators may be necessary. Associated items must be protected.
  • Methods used for interior abatement may also be acceptable for exterior areas.

D.   Restricted Methods

  • DO NOT use methods which produce uncontrolled dust or fumes. (Dry or unrestricted abrasion)
  • DO NOT sand without appropriate equipment.
  • DO NOT burn with an open flame torch.

CAUTION – any chemical which can remove paint is likely to be harmful if:

  • it touches your skin
  • it gets into your eyes
  • it has toxic fumes which you breathe.

Be sure to carefully follow the printed directions which comes with any paint remover.


1.  Where to Test

Wipe samples must be taken from each work area or room involved in the project. Wipe samples are taken from floors next to abated surfaces and from window sills and window wells. These three samples will usually provide a good representation of the lead levels in each room. Also bulk and air samples can be collected to determine lead dust levels. Quantities of all types of samples should be determined by job site conditions.

2.  What Levels are Acceptable

As part of a lead abatement project, all abated surfaces and floor must be finished to provide smooth and easily cleanable surfaces. This will enable the residents to keep surface lead dust levels low.

Following an abatement project, lead dust levels must meet acceptable environmental health standards as of June, 1995.

  • Bare & Carpeted FloorsBelow 100 micrograms per square foot (µg/ft2)
  • Interior Window SillsBelow 500 micrograms per square foot (µg/ft2)
  • Window TroughsBelow 800 micrograms per square foot (µg/ft2)
  • Exterior ConcreteBelow 800 micrograms per square foot (µg/ft2)
  • Other Rough SurfacesBelow 800 micrograms per square foot (µg/ft2)
  • Soil – mostBelow 2000 micrograms per square foot (µg/ft2)
  • Soil – play areaBelow 400 micrograms per square foot (µg/ft2)

3.  Sample Analysis

Accreditation of Laboratories conducting sample analysis for lead should be acknowledged by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA). Analysis for Lead in paint chips and soil should follow methods described in figures 5&6, respectively.

Waste and debris generated as part of an abatement project include:

  • Old woodwork, plaster, windows, doors, and other components removed from the building
  • Poly sheets and tape used to cover floors and other surfaces during lead paint removal.
  • Sludge from paint removers used in the job.
  • Liquid waste, such as wash water used to decontaminate wood after solvents have been used.
  • Rags, sponges, mop heads, HEPA filters and other items used in cleanup.
  • Disposable work clothes.

A.  Disposal Procedures

  • Put lead containing debris into heavy duty labeled 6 mil plastic bags. Store in a secure place.
  • Transport lead containing material and debris to an approved landfill.
  • Transport windows, trim and other bulky items in a covered vehicle.
  • Landfills will not accept liquid waste. Filter liquid waste to remove lead content. Deposit residue which contains lead and other toxic substances at a designated landfill.
    • DO NOT pour liquid waste on the ground, into storm drains or into sanitary sewers.
    • DO NOT store waste debris in the yard of the home being abated.
    • DO NOT incinerate debris. Fumes from lead which is burned will contaminate the air.

B.  Shipping Hazardous Waste Off-Site

  • Choose a hauler and facility which have EPA identification numbers.
  • Package and label your wastes for shipping.
  • Prepare a hazardous waste manifest.

Due to the fact that there is so much information regarding lead abatement, LEC has tried to give you an overview of this service. Should you require additional information or clarification of any thing contained in this web site for lead, please contact us via Email, phone, or fax and we will answer any questions you may have.

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