How to Safely Remove Lead-Based Paint With Abatement Methods

An man on a step ladder repainting walls after removing lead based paint.

 Dougal Waters / Getty Images

Lead abatement activities are regulated and closely monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A certified firm must notify the EPA at least five business days before starting lead abatement activities. In some instances, if the work to be done is part of an emergency abatement due to the discovery of high blood lead levels in occupants, notification should be done no later than the day work begins.

The Process

Prior to beginning work, a lead abatement service firm should notify EPA of the work being planned. The notification notice should include:

  • Type of notification — either original or updated
  • The expected start date of lead abatement activities
  • The expected completion date of lead abatement activities
  • Name, address, contact numbers, and certification of the firm performing abatement
  • Property name or project description
  • Type of structure where lead abatement will be carried out
  • Location of the project including units being worked on and their respective id number
  • Copy of documentation showing lead abatement emergency order (if applicable)
  • Name and EPA certification number of the project supervisor
  • Total square feet to be abated
  • Description of the lead abatement activities that will be performed
  • Signature of the representative of the certified firm

Applicability Requirements 

Lead abatement requirements apply only in states and Indian jurisdictions without any authorized lead abatement program. EPA has posted this information on its website which may be accessed by visiting the Lead Professionals page or contacting the National Lead Information Center (NLIC) at 1-800-424-LEAD.

Abating Building Components

When you are working on a building or any other commercial or residential project, the following ideas can be followed:

  • Building components: Spray a light drizzle over the area that will be removed. Remove the piece carefully and vacuum if necessary.  Wrap the component in 6-mil plastic sheeting and seal with duct tape.
  • Windows: After carefully removing the affected area, make sure there is no friction that can generate additional dust from other components that were not removed and that could have lead-based paint. Preferably remove all window components.
  • Doors and jambs: After removing the lead-based paint affected material, be sure to replace the jamb if possible. In some instances, this cannot be feasible so be sure to remove the stop and replace it with new material after stripping the old jamb.
  • Kitchen cabinets: Remove the contaminated portion but be sure not to remove additional lead-based paint on the walls.
  • Metal components: Have them removed from the site and clean them off-site.
  • Siding: Since this is exterior related work, then the area needs to be protected with plastic to avoid lead-based paint particles from getting loose.

It is extremely important to follow federal regulations and provide the proper PPE to workers dedicated to this work.

Safety Considerations

Lead abatement practices should be carried out by certified personnel with protective equipment. Workers must use proper personal protective equipment per state regulations. A full-body covering (suits) with hood and shoe covering attached should be used to prevent lead dust contamination. Disposable coveralls that are used one time provide effective protection. Personal protective equipment that should be used includes at a minimum:

  • Disposable coveralls
  • Respirator
  • Goggles
  • Shoe covers
  • Gloves

Preferred Methods

The options for lead abatement methods include:

  • Enclosure: This can be the easiest of all methods. The lead paint is covered with a wall covering. This is typically done for large surfaces such as walls.
  • Replacement: This method involves completely removing the door, window or molding that is covered in lead paint and replacing it with a new one.
  • Paint removal: This method involves completely removing lead paint. This will create lead dust and should be performed by a certified professional.
  • Encapsulation: This method not only covers but seals the affected area with a specific coating. This is less expensive but cannot be used on all surfaces.

This recording form can be used widely when performing lead abatement jobs.

Prohibited Methods

  • Scraping dry paint
  • Sanding the painted surface without HEPA local vacuum exhaust tool
  • Using a heat gun or burning the surface with a torch (open flame burning)
  • Sandblasting the surface
  • Chemically removing the paint
  • Uncontained hydro blasting or high-pressure wash