Even routine remodeling activities can generate hazardous amounts of lead dust, says Patrick Lehne, the owner of Western Regional Lead Training Center in Portland.
Lehne, who recently taught classes on safe lead paint removal techniques in Spokane, uses sanding a front door as an example.
If the paint on the door is lead-based, the project would release about 21 million micrograms of lead dust into the air. If proper safety precautions aren’t taken, the lead dust could easily spread throughout the dwelling, Lehne said.
In a 2,000-square foot house, the lead dust concentrations on the floor would total about 10,500 micrograms per square foot. Lead dust concentrations that exceed 40 micrograms per square foot are considered hazardous by the federal government.
Some advocacy groups, including the National Center for Healthy Housing, think the 40 microgram lead dust standard for floors is too lax. They’re pushing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for stricter standards.
The current U.S. standard doesn’t protect young children, said Dr. Bruce Lanphear, professor of children’s environmental health at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C.
Studies have shown that a young child living in a house or apartment with lead dust concentrations of 40 micrograms per square foot would have a 10 to 20 percent chance of developing blood-lead levels in excess of 10 micrograms per deciliter, Lanphear said.
There is no safe level of lead exposure for children, Lanphear said.