Safe Removal of Lead-Based Paint

Information Sheet

Date: September, 1997
Contact: (207)287-2651


Lead paint poisoning is a health threat to both children and adults. Most adult exposures occur as a result of work or hobbies that involve leaded materials. Children may be exposed to significant levels of lead in and around houses and schools built prior to 1978. Lead poisoning in adults can cause high blood pressure, abdominal discomfort, infertility, tremors, muscle and joint pain, and damage to the kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, and the nervous system. Health effects in children include permanent learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and severe developmental delays. Severe lead poisoning can cause death.

In 1978, lead was banned from paint for residential use. Lead paint is usually found on residences built prior to 1978. Because lead is not banned from industrial paint, some homes built after 1978 may also have lead paint on them.

What are the laws with which contractors must comply when removing lead-based paint?

OSHA regulations, including 29 CFR 1926.62 (interim final rule on lead in construction), apply to contractors who have employees. These regulations are designed only to protect worker health and safety; they do not prevent exposure to others or contamination of the environment.

If work is being performed as part of a lead abatement project, then this work must be done by a licensed lead abatement contractor and the work must conform with work practice standards delineated in state regulations. Lead abatement projects may occur as a result of an abatement order issued by the Maine Department of Human Services when a lead-poisoned child is identified in a residence, as part of federally funded programs (such as programs that receive funding from HUD, CDC, or EPA), or upon the request of a property owner. DEP regulations apply to contractors working on lead abatement jobs. These regulations require that lead abatement contractors be licensed and follow safe work practices. For a list of licensed contractors or to learn more about the requirements for licensing, please call the DEP's Lead Licensing Program at (207) 287-2651.

Work that is normal residential maintenance and is not associated with a project identified as a lead abatement project is not subject to licensing or work practice regulations. However, contractors should employ safe work practices on all projects involving lead-based paints. Safe work practices prevent the creation of environmental lead hazards and the unintentional exposure of the public to lead hazards. If a contractor does not employ safe work practices, then the contractor can be held liable for the cost of clean-up of any environmental lead hazards, and can be subject to suit for causing lead poisoning.

Both the federal government and the State of Maine have hazardous and solid waste management regulations which may apply to the handling and disposal of lead-containing wastes. Wastes from routine household maintenance are exempt from the state and federal hazardous waste laws. For more information on applicable hazardous and solid waste laws, please call the DEP at (207) 287-2651.

How do I find out more about safe work practices and OSHA regulations for lead-based paint?

Safe work practices for removal of lead-based paint are delineated in the HUD "Guidelines for the Evaluation and Control of Lead-Based Paint Hazards in Housing" and in the DEP's Lead Management Regulations. The DEP Lead Licensing Program (207) 287-2651) can provide you with the appropriate excerpts from both of these documents.

There are also several private training providers who offer short courses in lead-safe painting or construction. The DEP's lead program can provide you with a list of those whose courses have been reviewed and approved by DEP.

To find out more about OSHA regulations, you may contact the OSHA office in Augusta (207) 622-8417 or in Bangor (207) 941-8177.