DOH Home  >>  Family Health Services
Family Health A - Z | Reports | Important Phone Numbers  

Video Transcript

“Renovating? Look Out for Lead!” video transcript

“Renovating? Look Out for Lead!”
Windows Media Player / Real Player

Up from black to images of painting and renovation projects. 

Title is shown.

Music up.

Host Voiceover: Thousands of New Jersey homeowners repaint and renovate their homes every year.  Perhaps you are considering such a project.

Host: Whether you are a novice or seasoned do-it-yourselfer.
[holds up paint can]

There’s something new on the paint can – a government warning.

[label on paint can is shown]

Federal law mandated in 1978 that lead be banned from all paint used in housing.  Unfortunately, that means that any home built before then is likely to contain some lead-based paint.  Lead-based paint becomes dangerous when it begins to deteriorate or is disturbed by renovation.  As it peels and cracks or is sanded and scraped, paint chips and dust are produced.  Inhaling the dust or ingesting the dust or the chips results in lead poisoning.
[photos of peeling paint]

Childhood lead poisoning is one of the greatest environmental health threats facing American families today.

Approximately, one of every 30 children in a New Jersey first grade classroom will have been lead poisoned before his seventh birthday.

The health effects of lead exposure vary.

Childhood lead poisoning causes brain damage, organ damage, learning difficulties and behavioral problems.  Damage caused by lead is often permanent and many of its effects cannot be reversed.

Children can easily get the lead dust on their hands.  The most common way lead gets into children’s bodies is when they put their hands into their mouths.

Unfortunately, most parents aren’t aware of this danger until it is too late.
Host Voiceover: In 1996, Leann Howell and her husband were looking forward to the birth of their first child and eager to prepare their newly purchased two-hundred year old farmhouse for their growing family.  Renovations were in full gear by the time Julian was born.
[photos of Leann, her family, and her home]

Leann Howell: Julian was poisoned, and we found out he was severely lead-poisoned at the age of ten months.  He has a lead level of forty-four micrograms per deciliter, which was one point away from IV treatment.  We knew nothing about lead poisoning.

Ironically, when we were doing the renovations with the hot air gun and sander, we had people that worked in real estate, people in different industries….people that lived in older towns, older cities that were there and not one of them ever spoke up and said “Hey, by the way while you’re doing that do you know anything about lead paint?”  There was, out of all the people that we had talked with, that were in our circle at that point working with us, no one was aware of it.

We had no plastic containment, we had no way to track the invisible dust that was following us.  We didn’t know when we were vacuuming it up it was going back into the air to be breathed back in. We had compounded the problems so many times from the first time we started scraping the paint, and had no idea because we couldn’t see it, we couldn’t taste it, we couldn’t smell it.
[photos of Leann, her family, and her home]

Host: Lead-based paint can be hazardous even if it is in good condition.  Friction and impact surfaces present a danger.

Friction surfaces are ones that have painted surfaces that rub together such as opening and closing a window.
[window open and close]

Impact surfaces are ones that bump against painted surfaces such as a door banging against a wall or molding.  These actions disturb the paint and create lead dust.  Keep children away from these surfaces.
[door open and close]

Leann:  And it just takes one simple mistake to start introducing lead into the environment.  We had done it on every single area, even down to we didn’t have a HEPA at first, so we used a regular shop vac.  The lead dust was flying back out of the vacuum cleaner back into the air, floating around where it was easy to inhale again.

I was thirty years old.  I didn’t know.  There was no reason at that point in my life, at any point in my life, that I would’ve really known about lead unless I was working in public health.  Until it actually happened, and that’s the problem is if you’re doing the renovations yourself, you don’t have the clearance testing, you’re using your child as a canary to see what your levels are.  Unfortunately once the process started with us, we became a reactionary situation because we had to react to everything that happened with the lead with my son.  We could not be proactive at any point after that, other than trying to look at the long term, get out of the house, get him away from the lead.  Once the lead starts, you’re on a lead time line, and it takes phenominately long.
Host:  There are things you can do to prevent lead exposure and protect your health and the health of any children living in your home.

Leann Howell: My advice to anybody that has a house that they’re thinking about renovating, whether you’re going to take the windows out of the bathroom, if you’re going to scrape the front porch.  Whatever it is check on it first and see if you can get an inspection done on it to find out if you’re dealing with a toxic paint.  Lead is a neurotoxin.  Lead is going to affect the human body.

Host:  The New Jersey Department of Health can provide information to you on how to get your home inspected and when your children should be screened for lead in their blood.

If you plan to remodel or renovate or you suspect that lead-based paint has been used in your home get your home tested. Testing should be performed by a lead evaluation firm licensed by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. These lead evaluation firms have the professional training, equipment and expertise to identify where lead hazards are located in your home.

[NJ Department of Community Affairs, Lead Evaluation & Abatement Companies,

Depending on the scope of the project, making your home lead safe may be difficult and expensive to do yourself — and hazardous to  your family.  Remember, anytime lead paint is disturbed, dust is created. 

If your home improvement project involves removing or refurbishing surfaces that contain lead paint, consider having it done by a licensed and certified lead abatement contractor. Certification is given by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. The department is responsible for regulating and enforcing housing codes and standards in New Jersey.


Abatement means permanent – 20 years or more – control of a lead hazard limiting the harmful levels of lead.  After the work is completed, the abatement contractor uses specialized cleaning practices and then is required to have an independent certified inspector conduct tests to ensure no dust is left behind. Lead evaluation firms and lead abatement companies must be certified.

If you decide not to use a lead abatement firm, consider using a contractor that has taken the Lead Safe Work Practices course developed by HUD and the EPA.  Though this course is not as extensive as certification training, the course creates a strong awareness of the danger of employing improper methods and teaches basic proper procedures.

If you are a do it yourselfer and there is lead paint in your home, there are some important questions you should ask yourself.

Do you have the expertise to handle this job in a safe manner?  Don’t get in over your head.  You may be good at fixing things around the house but, if there are children in your home, you want to be certain there is no lead dust contamination.

Do you have the time?  Dealing with a lead hazard may take more time than you realize – can you devote the time needed to get the job done?

Do you have all the equipment you will need?  Removing a lead paint hazard requires specific safety gear.  Will you purchase or rent this equipment?  This is not a project to cut corners on expenses.

And finally, how committed to safety are you?  Will you take the time to learn lead safe work practices?  You don’t need to go to college, but consider attending the one day Lead Safe Work Practices course that was developed by HUD and the EPA.

In the Lead Safe Work Practices course you will learn that you should never try to remove lead paint by dry sanding, dry scraping or with a heat gun.  These methods will create lead dust or toxic fumes that can cause lead poisoning.

You will also learn about three common methods for making your home lead safe:
Enclosure and Encapsulation, Replacement, and Removal.

The encapsulation method bonds material to the existing painted surfaces which prevents access to underlying coats (layers) of lead-based paint.  This method is not appropriate for friction or impact surfaces.

The replacement method is just what it says – you replace things like windows and doors that have lead painted surfaces that are not intact.

It is often easier and safer to replace windows or doors that contain lead based paint than to try to remove the paint from these surfaces.

This method provides a permanent, relatively safe solution.  Some chips and dust can be created when removing these items.  It may also make your home more energy efficient and improve its value.

The third method is removal.  Lead based paint is removed from the surfaces in your home and then a new layer of lead free paint is applied.  This can be a difficult, time consuming procedure.  To do it safely, you must follow some very specific guidelines and procedures you will learn in a Lead Safe Work Practices course.

Other lead safe work practices include sealing the work area off from the rest of the home, restricting entry to the work area, removing belongings from the work area, misting painted surfaces disturbed during the work, and performing a thorough cleanup at the end of the job.

After taking the Lead Safe Work Practices course, you may come to the conclusion that it is safer and wiser to hire a lead abatement contractor and avoid all the health risks and work involved in making your home lead safe.

Leann Howell:  There’s just too much that’s inherently bad that can happen in any house, but if you know where to go, who to ask, and what to look for, you can make it a lot easier, and if you have an older house that has lead paint in it, just do the contractor because it’s going to save you so much hassle, so much time, medical bills.  There’s no price tag on what’s happened to us for eight years. 

Host:  The New Jersey Department of Health is dedicated to educating and informing New Jersey’s residents about the dangers of lead poisoning.

You and your family’s health and safety are our main priority.

Remember lead poisoning can be prevented.

Music up.

[For information about lead poisoning, contact: NJ DOH, 609-292-5666 or Your local health department]

[For info about lead evaluation and abatement companies, lead hazards and lead courses in your area, contact: DCA, 877-DCA-LEAD,]

Department of Health

P. O. Box 360, Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
Our Locations
Privacy policy, terms of use and contact form links State Privacy Notice legal statement DOH Feedback Page New Jersey Home

OPRA- Open Public RecordAct
department: njdoh home | index by topic | programs/services
statewide:njhome | services A to Z  | Departments/Agencies | FAQs
Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-

Last Modified: Monday, 28-Jul-14 09:38:01