Experts say there's no safe level of lead

Experts say there's no safe level of lead

Two of Tamara Rubin's children suffered lead poisoning when a painter dry scraped and melted lead paint in her Portland, Ore., home in 2005. They still have aggressive tendencies and learning disabilities, Rubin says.

And her two other children weren't exposed to the renovation but still tested positive for some lead in their blood — from lead dust at school and the neighborhood around them, according to Rubin. "People still aren't even aware that lead poisoning is a problem," she says.

Experts say there's no safe level of lead. The CDC set the blood lead level of concern for children at 10 micrograms per deciliter, but also states that adverse effects exist at all levels.

Veteran lead researcher Dr. Bruce Lanphear of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C., says studies show evidence of lower IQ and increased risk of ADHD even at very low lead levels.

Lanphear thinks the new EPA renovation rule is a good first step, but is concerned the lack of clearance testing provides the illusion of safety.

"In some, perhaps many cases, there will be children poisoned in homes where the renovation followed the rule," Lanphear says. He recommends homeowners take the initiative and insist that contractors clean their work area until it can pass a clearance test with levels much less than EPA's minimum standard.

Rubin says one contractor she hired a few years after her children were poisoned told her they couldn't guarantee a $14,000 window-replacement job would be done completely lead-safe. So she carried out the safety procedures herself, including tarping the work space and disposing of the waste.

Clearance testing afterward showed no lead present. "It would have only cost a few hundred dollars to do what I did for them," she says.

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EPA lead-safety requirements cause controversy

Starting in 2010, according to new rules recently unveiled by the Environmental Protection Agency, contractors will be required to use lead-safe work practices. Still, medical experts and others are concerned that the new rules still don't go far enough to protect children.

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I have to Pay for the lead test kits and passed that charge along to customers. Most have told me they test for free ... I won't do that .. if it costs the company money you have to charge for it !

Jason Stovall


I believe that any painter or parent should take precaution at all times when dealing with prepping older houses or buildings. I'm in agreement with C.B, the number of do it your self projects will "Mushroom" and the cost will still be at 20% and more, this is a bitter pill for sure.

Homer Thomas


I am a licenced renovator. Since I follow the rules, I no longer get any of the paint jobs I bid on. The contractors who don't follow the rules are cheaper and homeowners don't believe the precautions are necessary.

Christopher Benedict


Their are two flaws with this lead issue. First, the number of do-it-yourself projects is going to mushroom, due to the second reason, and that is this is going to cost the contractors time, and money. Who do you think will foot the bill? Homeowners can "want" all the safety measures taken, even to the extremes, but will they swallow the bitter pill when all the jobs cost 20% more? We shall see...

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