LEAD PAINT FAQs

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Q. When did the law take effect?

A. On Earth Day, April 22, 2010

Q. If our buildings were constructed after 1978 do I have to have them tested for Lead-Based Paint (LBP)?

A. No. Manufacturers quit using lead in their paints in 1975 and there was a grace period where it was phased out to allow them to sell their inventory.

Q. Which buildings have to be tested for LBP?

A. Residential housing and child-occupied structures built prior to 1978 including but not limited to:

  1. Homes
  2. Condominiums
  3. Apartments
  4. Mobile homes
  5. Child-occupied buildings (or any portion of a building)
  • Schools
  • Daycare facilities

Some exceptions are:

  1. Zero-bedroom units like studio apartments and dorm rooms
  2. Housing officially designated for the elderly or handicapped
  3. Housing that has already been tested by a State Licensed Lead Inspector and found to be free of lead-based paint

Q. Is there an acceptable level of lead?

A. Any paint or surface coatings that contain lead equal to or in excess of 1.0 milligram per square centimeter or more than 0.5 percent in weight.

Q. Who can do the testing?

A. In California, the testing must be done by a State Certified Lead Inspectors/Risk Assesor.

Q. Which contractors are affected by the law?

A. Any contractor that may disturb that may be lead-based paint. This includes painters, remodelers, handymen, reconstruction firms, electricians, plumbers and HVAC contractor if they are going to disturb more than the allowed square footage.

Q. How much can a contractor work on before lead testing is required?

A. The ruling states that testing must be done if more than 6 square feet of interior surface or more than 20 square feet of exterior surface will be disturbed. It is interpreted that this means on the entire project. In California, contractors must assume that buildings constructed prior to 1978 contain lead-based paint.

Q. Which surfaces have to be tested?

A. Any painted surface including stucco, metal, wrought iron, wood and varnished/stained surfaces.

Q. How many samples have to be taken?

A. There is some disagreement on the exact number but at a minimum, a sample must be taken from each painted surface. If there are multiple buildings in question, a representative sampling will be done, up to 40% of the buildings or 50 test sites.

Q. Since the target buildings will most likely have been painted many times, is it only the top coat that matters?

A. No, most testing firms will try to scrape off some of the paint down to the original substrate (wood or metal) to test all layers of paint. Many testing firms have radar-type guns that shoot through all layers of paint to test for LBP.

Q. What happens if LBP is discovered?

A. There are very specific guidelines for working on surfaces that contain lead-based paint. They are called the “Lead Safe Work Practices”. Work can only be performed by a RRP Certified Renovator.

Q. What happens if the buildings are found to be free of LBP?

A. If no lead is found or if the lead levels are within acceptable levels no extraordinary measures are called for in the preparation and painting process.

Q. Do occupants and residents need to be notified of the presence of LBP?

A. If the presence of lead-base paint is confirmed, all occupants and residents must be notified prior to any work on the surfaces containing LBP. An EPA brochure entitled “Renovate Right” must be provided to the community and the contractor must obtain a signed receipt before beginning the job. If the buildings are tested, and no lead is found, no notification is required.

Q. Do firms and individuals have to be certified?

A. Yes, an individual from a firm must take an 8-hour class to receive certification and the firm must also receive an EPA Firm Certification, even if the firm consists of a single person. So, if Harry is the only painter for Harry’s Painting, he must have an individual and firm certification. Conversely, if you own three apartments (built prior to 1978) and have your own maintenance staff, you, as the owner must be certified, as well as at least one of your employees working on the apartments. The firm certification is good for 5 years.

Q. Can I just paint over the LBP?

A. You are still required to test for lead but as long as you are not “disturbing” more than the limited square footage then you can paint over the lead-based paint. “Disturbing” can mean sanding, scraping, removing or any other act that will create dust.

Q. Will is cost more to have this additional work done or precautions taken.

A. In addition to the cost of testing, the cost of LBP-related construction and disposal will add significantly to the cost of projects where lead-based paint is a factor. For this reason, testing should absolutely be done prior to the bid process to account for the additional cost in proposals. Remember, only certified firms can perform work where LPB is a factor.

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