Taking Precautions

by Josh on December 18, 2009 · 4 comments

in Journal

The latest issue of The Small House Gazette, the newsletter of the Twin Cities Bungalow Club, featured an alarming story about a club member who exposed himself and his family to lead in the course of his home renovation.

A couple years ago I tested for lead paint in several places around the house and the only place I found it was in the exterior paint on and around the windows.  Since that test four years ago, the only thing I’ve done with that known lead paint is to periodically damp dust the window sills and to keep the kids away from open windows.

But that newsletter story made me paranoid that my kids could somehow be getting hurt by my tinkering with the house. I went down to the hardware store and bought some lead test kits to re-test the house and see if I really had cause for concern.  (Also, both my boys have been tested for lead by their doctor and the results have been normal.)

When I got the tests home, I checked the window sills, dust on the window blinds, surfaces away from windows, and the radiator in the bedroom project space. Just like my original test, the only place I found lead is in the exterior paint on the window frames and sills.

At this point I was breathing easier, knowing that the only lead I can find is contained and basically outside the living space. However, for some additional peace of mind and to quickly capture dust created by my house projects, I decided to get a portable air purifier.

When I called my True Value Hardware store to ask about an air purifier, the clerk told me about the unit they had, and when I arrived at the store he took me right to it. I couldn’t find any replacement filters in the store, but the clear assured me that he would keep the filters in stock.  Shortly after I arrived home with the air purifier, the clerk called me– apparently using caller id from when I called the store– to tell me he had found the replacement filters on the end of the shelf. Wow!  This attention and follow-up was one of my best customer service experiences in a long time.

I’ll follow up with a post on how the purifier is working in my project room, but until then I am just happy that the known lead hazards in my house don’t appear to be getting more dangerous or causing problems for me or my family.

What precautions do you take to identify potential hazards in your home?  Do you have tips for managing lead or other hazardous materials?  Leave your ideas in the comments below.

Disclosure: I was one of five bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program and my DIY project as well as my posts about my experience. I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Carolyn December 20, 2009 at 2:39 pm

2 yrs ago when I was 7 months pregnant we made an offer on a 100+ yr old home. Prior to the offer we paid an independent lead inspector to come in and perform an inspection using a laser/gun device to test for lead- this testing method is more thorough than the dust tests, it goes through all of the layers of paint. Since the house would require some work we felt it was important to know what we could unearth if we starting pulling stuff out, etc. Lead was found present in the banister, fireplace surround/mantle, baseboards & interior doors. We based our offer on the fact that we would want to do something to remove the lead from the banister (since it’s something that is touched a lot) and lost out on the house. It’s never been a move I regretted. My dad is a physician in a low-income area and my mom is a teacher- both have seen the sometimes devastating effects of lead poisoning in children and it wasn’t worth it to us.

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Josh December 21, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Sounds like you did the right kind of research and made an informed offer, Carolyn. Other home buyers would be smart to follow your example– keeping in mind that lead paint wasn’t banned until the 1970’s. That means there are plenty of houses that people don’t think of as “old” that could also have lead paint contamination.

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Sean @ Bungalow A Go Go December 24, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Thanks for bringing this topic up. I need to do some more thorough testing as well. Happy holidays!

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