Lead Poisoning Prevention and Healthy Homes Initiative
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The Healthy Homes Initiative is a coordinated, comprehensive and holistic approach for preventing diseases and injuries that result from housing-related hazards and deficiencies. The focus of the initiative is to identify health, safety, and quality of life issues in the home environment and to act systematically to eliminate or mitigate problems. Many Federal Agencies have incorporated lead poisoning prevention into the Healthy Homes Initiative.
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Healthy Homes
- US Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Healthy Homes Program
Lead Safe Work Practices
EPA promotes Lead Safe Work Practices when performing any kind of renovation, repair or painting in your home. The principles of lead safe work practice incorporate actions that prevent lead dust when disturbing Lead Paint in homes built before 1978. The six principles of lead safe work practice are:
- Prepare the work area
- Protect workers and occupants
- Don't spread lead dust
- Work Wet, Work Clean
- Clean the work area and,
- Waste disposal.
Work Lead Safe (PDF) (2pp, 618K) February 2008 bulletin from EPA Region 5
Preventing exposure to other harmful chemicals
Environmental health issues besides lead in paint are of concern to those working in homes, including the possible presence of lead, PCBs, and asbestos; not just in paint, but in varnish, caulk, and soil. Working lead safe is only one step in preventing exposure to these other harmful chemicals.
- Soil Areas - Lead and other pollutants from damaged paint or caulk may be in soil near houses built before 1978. This is a special concern in play areas used by children, especially when soil is bare. Testing is a good idea but you will need someone with special training to perform the test and explain the results.
Testing Your Home for Lead (PDF) (20pp, 204K) July 2000
- Asbestos - Insulation, tile or other materials in houses may contain asbestos. If these materials are in good condition they are generally safe. However, damaged materials can release fibers and cause serious lung damage. Have a qualified professional check whether containment or removal is needed. Do not remove asbestos yourself.
Asbestos in Your Home
- Painting and Renovation Products - Paint, stripper, glue and other materials may contain volatile organic compounds, which can be unhealthy. Use proper ventilation and protective gear.
Healthy Indoor Painting Practices (PDF) (2pp, 111K) May 2000
- Pesticides and other hazardous household products - Storage spaces for pesticides and other household chemicals may be contaminated with these products. Renovation can release harmful levels of dust and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs.) Use proper ventilation and protective gear.
Steps to Reduce Exposure
- Old Caulk and Paint - Caulk and paint made before 1980 may contain PCBs or lead. Asbestos may also be present. Damaged caulk and paint are of most concern. It is dangerous to breathe in or swallow dust from such sources or to let it touch your skin.
PCBs in caulk in older buildings
- Treated Wood - One common wood treatment product, chromated copper arsenate (CCA), has been phased out but may still be in basements or framing. Use proper ventilation and protective gear when working with treated wood.
Safety and Precautions When Working With CCA Alternatives
- Mold and Moisture - Mold can cause serious health problems such as allergic reactions, asthma and other respiratory complaints. If mold is a problem you must eliminate sources of moisture and clean up the mold. Scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water and dry completely. Absorbent materials with mold growth such as ceiling tiles and carpet may have to be thrown away. Use proper ventilation and protective gear.
Molds and Moisture
Use proper ventilation and appropriate protective gear such as goggles, gloves, dust masks, and a respirator, if appropriate. Avoid mixing chemicals and products together, especially if they contain ammonia. Consult with local authorities regarding proper disposal of materials.