Lead paint is a hot topic in the painting industry and one we felt the need to address as there has been a lot of myths and scare mongering around the topic of Lead.
If your house or property was built before 1978 chances are it contains lead in the paint.
We will discuss Lead in the past, lead in the present and the things you need to be aware of.
Lead in the past
Previously most painters would paint houses using lead-based paint. Lead-based paint is paint containing lead, a heavy metal that is used as pigment, with lead chromate and lead carbonate being the most common.
The reasons why lead was added to paint was for several very relevant reasons:
- Speed drying
- Increase durability
- Retain a fresh appearance
- Resist moisture that causes corrosion
Given all the above reasons you can now see the benefits of lead-based paints and why lead was mixed into paint. Lead addressed all the issues that are now the most common problems with paint today.
So why all the controversy with lead-based paints when it produces such positive results? The direct answer would be environmental and health issues. As time has passed we have become more environmentally aware and health conscious. Therefore, lead in paint has been flagged as a big problem when it comes to the environment and our health. Each time we are exposed to lead some of it is stored in our bodies for the rest of our lives. This means that even small amounts of lead in our environment can be harmful if we are continually exposed. Since 1978, lead has been banned in paint in most countries. However, before 1978, many houses in Australia were painted with this type of paint. Therefore, some houses today may still contain lead. Risks are increased if the paint is flaking or chalking and are particularly high when the paint is being removed by dangerous methods such as sanding, hot air guns, sandblasting or burning.
Lead in the Present
Lead is banned from all paint in Australia. Due to the environmental and health issues associated with lead there are now strict regulations when it comes removal of lead based paints from old houses and buildings. A common query when it comes to renovations is the approach taken to removing lead based paints. Now that we are all aware of the health affects of lead it is important the substance is dealt with accordingly. Firstly, you need to know if lead is present in the paint. To do this a lead test is required. This involves scraping each layer of the paint, all the way back to the timber. Even if the paint has been sanded back the lead would have soaked into the timber so all layers including the timber, primer and all the way to the top coat need to be tested.
Painting & Preparation
There are two main ways to remove this type of paint from your house.
- Full lead removal – this is the more costly option but most thorough. The entire property needs to be covered with a tarpaulin and cocooned. Lead removalists are required to wear special protective suits and respirators while they use a Hepa vacuum sander to remove the paint. While this technique aims to remove all the existing toxic paint there is a risk of contaminating the surrounding environment.
- Wet Scrape – being more cost effective this is the most common option used. The property does not need to be cocooned and protective clothing is not necessary. A tarpaulin is only required for the floor. The surfaces are continually made wet so that the paint can be scarped off with a Linbide tungsten steel scraper. It is essential the surface is continually wet to ensure the lead does not get airborne. The wet flakes keep falling on to the floor where the tarpaulin catches the flakes and is rolled up and can be taken away for lead disposal. The wet scraping technique does not remove all the leadpaint but once overcoated it is trapped behind a protective barrier of new non toxic paint.
We have learnt that lead based paint was used in all house paint before 1978 but is now banned. Although it did have positive results in appearance, durability and drying times, the negative impact on the environment and health issues have far outweighed any positive performance results. Since lead has been banned in paints the main issue which makes it a current topic is the removal of this paint type and we now know there are two options that we can choose for this safe removal.