Today I had a visit from the Alameda County Lead Poisoning Prevention Program who offer a free lead consultation for owners of pre-1978 homes. Mine's 1939 so mostly certainly has lead in it, and not being one to turn down free education that could help keep me healthy...
Lead is a pollutant and poison, and especially bad for children as their organs are still developing and less able to flush it out as adults. There's now no safe minimum for lead so controlling it as much as possible is the goal. In 1978, lead in paint was banned for residential use). As paint ages it peels and the lead dust can enter the atmosphere. My county, Alameda, offers free inspections to help homeowners contain lead.
The visit was about an hour long and consisted of a visual inspection of any painted surface. My inspector, Gabrielle, was looking for signs of age, and peeling. Fortunately, having a remodel, my house is in good shape. But knowing which areas were higher risk (older) was useful to know in case of future work.
Here are my quick notes:
Phosphorous, soil amendments, in particular fish bone meal (story about its use in Oakland) can be used to chemically bind up lead into a non-toxic compound. Unfortunately it smells, but there are more expensive non-stinky options.
Keeping a home well ventilated ("cross ventilation" - keeping windows at ends of the house open) can help ensure dust is blown out.
Soil testing should happen in areas where you're hoping to grow. Don't mix the samples, and ensure they're labelled so you can match the results back to which area.
Recycled wood is OK to use so long as it doesn't have old paint on it. Pressure treated wood is not OK for growing since it contains chemicals you wouldn't want to consume.
One benefit of learning about doing lead-safe construction and contract work is simply being on the look-out for contractors that do and don't know about it. Gabrielle sent me this handy checklist on hiring a lead-safe contractor. There's even a list of certified folks.
There are labs that will do soil testing. Again, ACLPPP has guidance on that.
When doing work with lead, cover the area at least 6' away from the work site, and ideally create a contained "room" around the area. It requires more washing than you might expect. Sanders should have a HEPA attachment to catch & filter the dust. Aim to "work wet" to clump the dust to prevent it floating around. At the end of a work session, wash clothes & shower. Don't eat during sessions - it's not just about washing hands but preventing dust from hair, clothes, etc being ingested. Lead dust can makes its way into your home from a distant job site via clothes, equipment, car seats, etc. ACLPPP do day long classes that are a combination of hands-on and theory to demonstrate all this, and even for a small ($50) fee certify you.
The body sees lead as a mineral to store (oops) so it ends up in bone. Calcium and iron help remove it (although this study suggests not, but dietary fiber and avoiding cigarette smoke help).
The conversation meandered into general home maintenance which turned out to be really useful too:
This neat doodad (Eva-Dry E333) passively dehumidifies and when it's "full" (wet) you plug it in and it dries itself out ready for another round. Lasts ten years. Another worthwhile product is DampRid.
Preventing moisture by checking exterior drainage; there's probably a couple of places I could extend water spouts, etc. Really, I need to look into water capture properly at some point (interesting pro/con cost/benefit discussion of rainwater collection in California).
The Alameda County Master Gardeners at UC Davis is an amazing resource I've used before too and is recommended by ACLPPP.
Block up holes around the house to prevent rodents making homes in walls, attics, crawlspaces, etc. Copper mesh and expanding foam are good for that. Even if you don't mind rats(!) you don't want to be the local motel... Prevention better than pesticides.
Phew! Thank you Alameda County! :)