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EPA Urges Caution on Tornado Renovation Activities Involving Lead Paint

Release Date: 06/21/2011
Contact Information: David Bryan, 816-519-0697 (Blackberry),; Chris Whitley, 816-518-2794 (Blackberry),

Environmental News


(Kansas City, Kan., June 21, 2011) -- As the Joplin, Mo., area continues to recover from the May 22 tornado, EPA Region 7 recommends children and pregnant women keep away from work that could disturb lead-based paint. The Agency also urges persons working on construction surfaces that may contain lead-based paint to take precautions to prevent the spread of lead-contaminated dust, which is the most significant source of lead exposure for children.

Lead dust may pose hazards to children and pregnant women during cleanup and repair work that typically follows natural disasters such as tornadoes and floods. Common renovation activities like sanding, cutting and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips, which can be harmful to adults and children. Lead-based paint was used in more than 38 million homes until it was banned for residential use in 1978. In young children, lead exposure can cause reduced IQ, learning disabilities, developmental delays, and behavioral problems.

The federal Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule requires that contractors, property managers and others working for compensation, in homes and child-occupied facilities built before 1978, to be trained and use lead-safe work practices. They also must provide a copy of the brochure, “Renovate Right; Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers and Schools,” to owners and occupants before starting renovation work.

EPA emphasizes that because of the nature of the recovery work going on in Joplin, certain emergency provisions of the RRP Rule may apply. Work covered under the rule’s provision for storm-damaged housing does not require advance notice or trained renovators to remove materials, including debris, from damaged homes. Also, emergency renovation activities are exempt from the rule’s warning sign, containment, waste-handling, training, and certification requirements – but only to the extent necessary to respond to the emergency. Cleaning, cleaning verification and recordkeeping requirements still apply to emergency renovations. Other non-emergency renovation activities remain subject to the rule’s requirements.

Volunteers who do not receive compensation for work are not required to be trained and certified, under the rule. However, volunteers are strongly advised to educate themselves about lead-safe work practices to avoid causing health or safety hazards for themselves or others.

Homeowners doing their own renovations should take steps to protect themselves and their families from exposure to lead dust. Those steps include:

    • Containing the work area so that dust does not escape from the area. Cover floors and furniture that cannot be moved with heavy duty plastic and tape, and seal off doors and heating and cooling system vents;
    • Keeping children, pregnant women, and pets out of the work area at all times;
    • Minimizing dust during the project by using techniques that generate less dust, such as wet sanding or scraping, or using sanders or grinders that have HEPA vacuum attachments which capture the dust that is generated; and
    • Cleaning up thoroughly by using a HEPA vacuum and wet wiping to clean up dust and debris on surfaces. Mop floors with plenty of rinse water before removing plastic from doors, windows, and vents.
EPA Region 7 has prepared a fact sheet to help answer questions about the RRP Rule and the emergency exemptions.

Additional information on EPA’s lead program, and ways to protect against hazards associated with lead-based paint, is available online at, or by contacting the National Lead Information Center, 1-800-424-5323.
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