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September 29, 2006 1:38 PM   Subscribe

We're about to have our house exterior repainted, and it will need sanding and grinding. Should we use a regular painter, or do we need a lead abatement specialist?

We got the first of two quotes today, from a reputable, experienced painter. The house is ~100 years old, with clapboard siding, so there's probably lead paint somewhere in the layers. The painter seemed unperturbed, and I get the feeling that most people handle situations like this as routine painting jobs. Is that because lead poisoning isn't at all likely, or are all those people foolhardy?

I've heard that a lead abatement specialist would be extremely expensive. We don't have kids and neither do the neighbors on either side.
posted by daisyace to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
I'm by no means an expert (I'm neither a lawyer, a painter, a doctor, nor do I know the first thing about environmental laws), but here's my two cents:

It's the painter's responsibility to deal with, especially if you bring it to their attention that it's a potential risk. If you're concerned about your health, I can only imagine it would be ten times worse for them. (But, again, I'm clueless.)

I'd advice you to make sure you talk to an experience, reputable painter, not some random guy who doesn't know what he's doing, but it seems you're already doing that.
posted by fogster at 2:09 PM on September 29, 2006

Might you sell this house to a family at some point in the future? Does rain and runoff collect into the local water supply?

While adding another layer of paint is usually a non-issue, you might consider asking your painter about environmental issues from paint removal, especially on a house as old as yours.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:17 PM on September 29, 2006

Useful links.
posted by DenOfSizer at 2:49 PM on September 29, 2006

Check into what lead certifications the town will require of you (a) when getting the work done, and (b) when selling the house in the future. Be sure whoever does the job can give you any required certifications.

I was in a rental house w/lead paint where the landlord hired fly-by-night painters; they didn't do any of the required lead containment stuff, and the neighbor's child ended up with lead poisoning and there was a big lawsuit. It's good that there are no kids in houses immediately around yours, but in general, I'd say lead isn't something to fool with -- if only because of the liability it exposes you to.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:19 PM on September 29, 2006

I just went to the doctor last week because I was worried about lead poisoning from scraping the ceiling in my 1820 house. Turns out, I didn't need to worry– the nurse walked in and asked, "why are you worried, are you getting retarded or something?" Apparently the effects are readily apparent, like blue gums or mental retardation within the week. Trace amounts are processed by the liver.

However, young children can be affected much more easily. The National Safety Council's website states, "All it takes is the lead dust equivalent of a single grain of salt for a child to register an elevated blood lead level." (

See also this EPA Lead Safety Handbook (PDF).
posted by reeddavid at 9:07 AM on September 30, 2006

Here are four links by their headlines from the first page of my search using the term 'lead' on ScienceDaily:

Long-term Lead Exposure Linked To Cognitive Decline In Older Adults

Jefferson Neuroscientists Find Evidence Of Lead Exposure Affecting Recovery From Brain Injury

The Dangerous Legacy Of Lead: Research Shows Disruption To Key Immune Cells In Mice

Lead Accelerates Aging Process Years After Exposure

I don't know where the current estimate of the danger of low-level exposure to lead is, but I do know what the trajectory of that estimate of danger is: upwards at a steep angle.
posted by jamjam at 1:20 PM on September 30, 2006

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