By now, we all know that lead is not-so-good for our general health. Unfortunately, the U.S. did not ban the use of lead-based paint until 1978. This means that hundreds of thousands of homes still contain lead paint, and when these older homes need remodeling, the lead can be released into the air, soil, and water it contacts.
Finally, on April 22, Earth Day, of 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a rule that requires lead safe practices by contractors who perform any renovation or repair projects that disturb lead-based paint in home, child-care facilities, and schools built before 1978. No longer can a contractor just go in to a home and start demo work, or even just sanding, without being certified and following specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.
A little background on lead -- did you know that some scientists believe that the lead used in some ceramic glazes and in the water pipes helped destroy the Roman Empire? Yes, the long term effects of lead poisoning leads to decreased bone and muscle growth, damage to the nervous system, kidneys, hearing, seizures and unconsciousness in children. In adults, effects can include everything from fatigue to infertility, anemia, high blood pressure, and dyspepsia. In general, lead poisoning makes humans sickly and weak, and therefore easily conquered.
If every one of us were all-knowing and filled purely with concern for humanity, we wouldn’t need government intervention. But consider the banning of the use of lead in paints. Did you know that some nations in Europe banned lead-based paint in the 1920’s to protect painters? Meanwhile, the U.S. government endorsed the use of lead in paint because it helped make paint more washable, thereby allowing homes to be cleaner and reduce the incidence of infectious disease. There is a lot written about how in the 1950s scientists found lead in paint to be the cause of lead poisoning among children who lived in poorly maintained homes (with peeling paint).
So, while even more regulations on how you can work on your own home can be annoying, one of the most important jobs a government can do is to protect you from things that you can’t see.
For the complete information on the rule and the certification and regulation of professionals, go to www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovation.htm.