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Old 02-25-2011, 12:08 PM   #1
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How do you test for lead construction dust on fabric?


I'm concerned that my containment of construction dust may have fallen short of desirable. Our home is an early 1950's home and most likely has lead paint. A fine layer of dust from plaster wall and drywall demolition still got past the floor to ceiling plastic containment, I suppose from going in and out of the work area. The clean up on all hard materials has been followed to the letter but I am not certain that the upholstered furniture and drapery are able to be cleaned adequately.

Any advice?

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Old 02-25-2011, 05:34 PM   #2
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How do you test for lead construction dust on fabric?


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I'm concerned that my containment of construction dust may have fallen short of desirable. Our home is an early 1950's home and most likely has lead paint. A fine layer of dust from plaster wall and drywall demolition still got past the floor to ceiling plastic containment, I suppose from going in and out of the work area. The clean up on all hard materials has been followed to the letter but I am not certain that the upholstered furniture and drapery are able to be cleaned adequately.

Any advice?
The cloth objects should have been removed from the space or at least sealed in plastic.
To test, put a new bag in your vacuum and vacuum the items.
Dump the dust out and use one of those lead test amulets and see if it turns pink.
They sell them in hardware stores, big boxes and the internet.
When people come into your home, assume they need to be supervised until you're sure they don't.
Ron

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Old 02-25-2011, 07:58 PM   #3
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How do you test for lead construction dust on fabric?


Well, for one thing there was a reduction of the level of lead used in 1950, so the paint in your house will not have as much lead as earlier paints did.

With that said, unless something new has come out since last August, the test kits will test painted surfaces, I wouldn't count on their function on dust. Either way, they don't really give a measure of the amount of lead. In order to get that, you need to collect a sample according to specific procedures and send it to an independent lab. Forget about it, it's cheaper and easier to just treat the situation as if the dust does contain lead.

Just clean it up as you would if you knew it was lead dust. Avoid anything that is going to send it into the air, wipe it with a wet wipe until wiping doesn't pick up any more dust. Swiffer wet works for this quite well, but of course there are less expensive alternates too - baby wipes is another one you can use.
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Old 02-25-2011, 08:09 PM   #4
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How do you test for lead construction dust on fabric?


Houses built prior to 1960 have the greatest chance of containing lead based paint, among all houses built before 1978. I disagree with 1950 being any kind of cutoff, with all due respect.

To properly clean your upholstered surfaces you must use a HEPA vacuum, preferably with a beater bar attachment--any other type of vacuum will only re-distribute the dust into the air.

If you would like to test for lead--you should be able to find a local lab who can perform a dust swipe sample and test. Try a Google search for your area and "Lead testing lab".
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Old 02-25-2011, 09:17 PM   #5
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How do you test for lead construction dust on fabric?


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The cloth objects should have been removed from the space or at least sealed in plastic.
To test, put a new bag in your vacuum and vacuum the items.
Dump the dust out and use one of those lead test amulets and see if it turns pink.
They sell them in hardware stores, big boxes and the internet.
When people come into your home, assume they need to be supervised until you're sure they don't.
Ron
could not agree with you more.
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Old 02-25-2011, 09:31 PM   #6
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How do you test for lead construction dust on fabric?


Thank you very much for the helpful responses.

I, unfortunately, am too trusting of a person and have wrongly assumed that licensed professionals will always do everything right more times than I would care to admit. While the work done was very satisfactory, the amount of construction dust left uncleaned for over two weeks was shocking by even the most lenient standards. They didn't even cover the air ducts. Yes, the furnace was running the entire time work was in progress. It never crossed my mind but you'd think they would have informed me to keep it off. Expensive lesson learned the hard way if there is, in fact, lead in that paint.

Are there any contaminants of concern in the gypsum dust from the drywall or plaster wall tear-out? The contractor is already finished with the job and the bill has been paid, but I do want to do whatever clean up I need to do to make sure that I'm keeping my family safe.
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Old 02-25-2011, 11:10 PM   #7
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How do you test for lead construction dust on fabric?


Oh okay, I think I might have missed that this was a concern with a contractor's work. I'll get back to that.

What I'm saying about paint after 1950 is based on information from the EPA RRP course. In 1950 the hazards of lead in paint was recognized and the industry volutarily self regulated to reduce concentrations of lead in paint. It was something like 1973 when governmental regulations went into effect which further reduced lead levels in paint, but in both cases even though the lead levels were lower than they had been prior, they still were high enough to be counted as lead-based paint according to the legal EPA definition currently in place.

Lead is still present in paints. Lead-free in the EPA's eyes refers to the lead in paint being below a certain level. This little nuance is part of what makes the EPA rule tricky, it's not as simple as there is lead or there is not lead.

So at any rate, talk to your contractor. I am no fan of regulations or bureaucracy, but the EPA's renovation rules have a lot of requirements and it sounds like unless your contractor was able to determine that no lead based paint was present, maybe they might have missed some rules and there are fines they may face for each rule they broke... Did they send you the lead pamphlet 3 weeks before the job started? Did they have all the required caution signs up while they worked? Did they document that their workers had been properly trained in lead safe work procedures? Was everything properly disposed in heavy duty contractor bags (4 mil if I recall), did they do the clearance properly and keep all required records?

If they didn't follow every procedure because they found no lead present up front, then you would have your answer right there - nothing to be worried about. If they didn't make that determination or lead was found, they had to follow procedures, and if they missed anything they have the potential to have fines up to $30000. That's for each rule they broke.. Each of the questions I asked, they are each a rule that if broken could mean a fine.

I hate suggesting the idea of bringing down this kind of misery on anyone, but if you believe they broke any EPA rules then it might mean you have a little leverage on the contractor even though they have already been paid.

Editted to add: You've already listed violations too, leaving air ducts uncovered, running the furnace - those are no-no's from what I remember of the RRP course.

I'd be calling them and telling them that you're not satisfied with the cleanup and that you'd like them to come back and try to clean up the dust that they left. They ought to be able to use their HEPA vac and wipe things down.

Unless they determined before the job that no lead was present which they should be able to document to you.

If you don't get either of those then it might be time to breach the subject of EPA lead renovation rules, Sounds to me like they're either unaware of them or they know them but have gotten careless.

Last edited by WillK; 02-25-2011 at 11:19 PM.
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Old 02-25-2011, 11:23 PM   #8
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How do you test for lead construction dust on fabric?


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Originally Posted by MyGoldenRocks View Post
Thank you very much for the helpful responses.

I, unfortunately, am too trusting of a person and have wrongly assumed that licensed professionals will always do everything right more times than I would care to admit. While the work done was very satisfactory, the amount of construction dust left uncleaned for over two weeks was shocking by even the most lenient standards. They didn't even cover the air ducts. Yes, the furnace was running the entire time work was in progress. It never crossed my mind but you'd think they would have informed me to keep it off. Expensive lesson learned the hard way if there is, in fact, lead in that paint.

Are there any contaminants of concern in the gypsum dust from the drywall or plaster wall tear-out? The contractor is already finished with the job and the bill has been paid, but I do want to do whatever clean up I need to do to make sure that I'm keeping my family safe.
Demolition dust is not something you want to breathe. Now that it's settled on surfaces, vacuum it off and wipe it down with a moist rag and rinse it in a clean pale of water, regularly. When the pale starts to looks murky, replace the water.
I'd have the ducts cleaned professionally and send the bill to the contractor.
I'd also complain to the people who hold this guys license. Take pictures of the issue and send it along with the letter. It doesn't sound like he's following set guidelines.
Ron
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Old 02-26-2011, 01:10 AM   #9
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How do you test for lead construction dust on fabric?


Again, my thanks Will and Ron for your very helpful responses.

No, they did not send us a RRP three weeks prior to work, there were no cautionary signs, and they did not show proof of training documentation, although their letterhead is printed with a DKI membership symbol.

This was a two phase process. They did emergency work last winter for us due to ice dams that built up on the edge of the roofline causing water to get into the interior of three of our rooms. I am under the assumption that they are not required to follow lead containment during emergency work, if I've read correctly. They dried out those rooms and took out part of one of the plaster walls at that time. They very carefully taped off the work area and kept it closed at all times. They utilized air scrubbers for several days too. They put plastic sheeting over the open wall and sealed it with blue painters tape until they could fit us in their schedule for the reconstruction phase. We paid the bill for the emergency work in full at the time of completion. Unfortunately, they did not return until this winter to start that work -- nine months later. While we were pleased with their working practices, we were greatly disappointed that they left us in the lurch for so long.

The protection for this reconstruction phase was very, very lax. No contents were covered in plastic resulting in us having to dispose of our drapery and bedding -- at our expense. Seriously, you could write with your finger through the dust in the fabric. I vacuumed the upholstered furniture but I'm not satisfied with the outcome yet. Neither phase had the HVAC vents covered for either the demolition or the reconstruction and the furnace system ran the whole time for those many weeks that they worked here.

(Upon relooking at the bill I paid, I see that they billed me for four 24-hour unmonitored days for air scrubbers. They only used the air scrubber for four hours on just one day and only in just one of the three rooms. Guess there's nothing I can do about that now. I was here all day working from home each and every day that they were here just so someone was around in case they had any questions, so I know exactly how long they used an air scrubber. Very expensive too. Again another lesson learned.)

The reason that lead paint became a concern was that once the reconstruction company left, we had Pella come in to replace a window. The amout of plastic used to protect the contents of our home and to close off the work area was unbelievable. They even tented the exterior of the home. They left the place immaculate too. To say it was like day and night from the other company is a gross understatement. Pella said that due to the year our home was built, it was very likely that lead paint would be present and that they would maintain the workspace as if it did contain lead. That's the first time I'd ever seen that pamphlet which spurred my interest in making sure that our home is completely safe, after the terrible shortcomings from the reconstruction company.

Yes, I do believe that this company has become careless. They have too much business currently and they are trying to take on more than they can handle. The word on this company is that they have lost their preferred status with two major insurance companies recently in our area.

I'm not sure if I have any recourse now at this point that can we take with this company since I have already paid their bill. I am not they type to badmouth anyone else but I can guarantee that I would never use them again for any type of work. The money part of this thing bothers me (we ahve also discovered that the square footage we were billed for is way off) but what my real, true concern is for the health and safety of my family. What makes it even more irritating is that they were made well aware of my son's serious respiratory issues.

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Old 02-26-2011, 07:21 AM   #10
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How do you test for lead construction dust on fabric?


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Demolition dust is not something you want to breathe. Now that it's settled on surfaces, vacuum it off and wipe it down with a moist rag and rinse it in a clean pale of water, regularly. When the pale starts to looks murky, replace the water.
I'd have the ducts cleaned professionally and send the bill to the contractor.
I'd also complain to the people who hold this guys license. Take pictures of the issue and send it along with the letter. It doesn't sound like he's following set guidelines.
Ron
Regarding demolition dust. I always get irked with the DIY or HGTV network shows when they are doing demo. 75% of the time no one is wearing a mask and rooms aren't sealed off. They don't push that stuff enough.
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Old 02-26-2011, 07:41 AM   #11
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How do you test for lead construction dust on fabric?


The EPA's Rule does allow for emergency work outside of the notification and work practice requirements. But as you said, with a 9 month gap in the actual repairs that exclusion did not apply.

I think you have plenty of recourse and I would contact the company and ask for a meeting. It's clear they did not follow the requirements of the rule, and you've been left with a possibly contaminated house. The fines are actually $37,500--but to date no firm has yet to be fined under the rule.

If they did test, they are required to inform you of the results. There should have been a Certified Renovator in charge of your project--and his certificate should have been posted on site.

Since you've experienced what the proper work practices are with your window company, I would contact the contractor and in a diplomatic way inform them of what you've discovered and ask them to come back and thoroughly clean your home and ductwork--and replace the drapes and bedding.

There are many contractors who know about the rule, but are choosing to ignore the requirements given the lack of enforcement. I'm not sure where you are located, but some states have adopted their own RRP Rules and enforcement falls to them.

Even in more recently built homes, a professional firm would not allow dust and debris to escape their work area. As a member of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), President of my local chapter, and an EPA Certified renovator, I'm terribly disappointed that a fellow contractor has left your home a mess. I strongly urge you to approach them, and ask them to make your home clean again.
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Old 02-27-2011, 09:43 PM   #12
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How do you test for lead construction dust on fabric?


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The EPA's Rule does allow for emergency work outside of the notification and work practice requirements. But as you said, with a 9 month gap in the actual repairs that exclusion did not apply.
I agree it sounds like the initial work would apply as emergency, which relieves certain requirements but I believe that it doesn't entitle the company to be completely careless... Nor does it excuse the work done 9 months later.

The company may try to argue otherwise, but I believe the EPA is clear. And they don't take ignorance of the law as an excuse.

In fact, I honestly would have to wonder if the company actually has the EPA certification, and you can search to find out:

http://cfpub.epa.gov/flpp/searchrrp_firm.htm

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I think you have plenty of recourse and I would contact the company and ask for a meeting. It's clear they did not follow the requirements of the rule, and you've been left with a possibly contaminated house. The fines are actually $37,500--but to date no firm has yet to be fined under the rule.
Actually, on this last point that isn't precisely true. I hate naming names, but the info is in the public domain. The company is one with a solid reputation locally, and they installed the windows in my house for the previous owner - and they're coming back out to replace a cracked pane at no charge. But the point is that this is being enforced, and the back story on this is that a homeowner wasn't happy with something about the job, and she complained to the state and they came down through the EPA rule and the company SETTLED at a cost to the company totalling $685,000. Let me emphasize this: This was a settlement with the EPA - meaning the fine was much higher. And this was over ONE installation.

If you want to look this up it shows on the EPA's website under significant cases in July 2009, it's dated week of July 27, 2009.
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Old 02-27-2011, 10:07 PM   #13
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Actually, on this last point that isn't precisely true. I hate naming names, but the info is in the public domain. The company is one with a solid reputation locally, and they installed the windows in my house for the previous owner - and they're coming back out to replace a cracked pane at no charge. But the point is that this is being enforced, and the back story on this is that a homeowner wasn't happy with something about the job, and she complained to the state and they came down through the EPA rule and the company SETTLED at a cost to the company totalling $685,000. Let me emphasize this: This was a settlement with the EPA - meaning the fine was much higher. And this was over ONE installation.

If you want to look this up it shows on the EPA's website under significant cases in July 2009, it's dated week of July 27, 2009.
Not to split hairs... The project in question in the OP clearly wasn't handled properly on the part of the contractor.

But if the case you mentioned was from July 2009, the violation likely involved notification requirements in place before the RRP Rule took effect. Many firms have been fined under the TSCA but none have been yet fined for violations specific to the relatively recent RRP Rule (an amendment to the TSCA).

The RRP Rule was released in 2008, but the majority of its requirements didn't take effect until April 2010.

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Old 02-28-2011, 09:04 AM   #14
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But if the case you mentioned was from July 2009, the violation likely involved notification requirements in place before the RRP Rule took effect. Many firms have been fined under the TSCA but none have been yet fined for violations specific to the relatively recent RRP Rule (an amendment to the TSCA).

The RRP Rule was release in 2008, but the majority of its requirements didn't take effect until April 2010.
Good point... I am a homeowner who took the RRP class for my own benefit to learn lead safe work practices even though I'm exempt while working on my own home. As such, some of the details that relate more to contractors and not at all to persons such as myself just weren't that significant to me at the time, and as such I tend to forget those kind of details.

With that said, I think my recollection of what I was told in the class was that the manner of the rules phasing in was that the requirements WERE in place, but were not being ACTIVELY enforced... yet. Active enforcement should be in place now, I think it was going to be as of January of this year. BUT that didn't mean that the requirements could be ignored, and state agencies have been empowered to enforce RRP rules where they receive consumer complaints.

Upon further examination of the case I had cited, the violations were actually with the Michigan Lead Abatement Act of 1998. And one of the actions of the settlement was that the company agreed to comply with Federal RRP before the April 2010 effectivity date.

It also sounds to me like the OP ought to be able to use the RRP as leverage... He might need to get his state agencies involved if the contractor isn't responsive. Another point that I had forgotten is that the EPA rule allows states to have more restrictive rules as well.
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Old 03-01-2011, 11:34 AM   #15
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Thanks again for your very informative replies. They have been so very helpful.

The grey area for me is determining what is emergency work and what is reconstruction work. The emergency work was paid for last winter and they came back this winter to do the reconstruction. (That was the earliest I could get them to come back even with the most polite, yet persistent, prodding to get them back here.) Could they argue that some of this reconstruction work was still emergency work? They assured me last winter that our home was completely safe and that we could even sleep in the room with that opened wall. Heck, they told us that we could sleep in that room while they were in the process of doing the emergency work.

Also, I understand that the EPA rules need not be completely followed during emergency work. Actually their emergency work fell under the guidelines far better than the reconstruction phase. The exception to that during the emergency phase though was that they carried out some things unbagged and many of the bags were left untied and sitting on our front porch and landscaped front yard instead of going into a sheltered/protected area or into a dump truck, as the dump truck was not on site until the next day. I have pictures of this.

I contacted this company yesterday since I had a different contractor come in to confirm the square footage of the work completed and to correct some of the work that had been done improperly. The square footage that we have been billed for is double, and in some areas triple, the actual square footage that they actually completed. They are continuing to dispute this. I have good pictures of the work in progress so I don't see how they have the nerve to deny this. When I told them that they billed us for four days of air scrubbers, when they only used it in one room (not all three rooms) for only four hours and only on one day, they emailed a picture of an air scrubber in one room of our property and said indeed that it was there for four days. I am terribly familiar with their machines since they ran for two weeks non-stop in two rooms of our house last winter. They are very loud and you cannot miss them! (BTW, they are worth their weight in gold as the amount that they bill you while using them is insane.)

WillK, I checked out your link and the reconstruction company is not listed there. Does that mean they do not have to adhere to the EPA laws? I hope not. I did confirm that they are a member of DKI.

One more thing, we have asked them repeatedly by phone and certified mail for copies of their outside contractor bills and/or their P.O.'s but they still have not sent them to us. They also maintain that they kept the property in clean and safe conditions at all times even though I have several photographs showing otherwise. Even the cleaning company that we paid $2400 to come in and clean up the place, after this reconstruction company left, took their own photographs and were in disgust at the copious amounts of construction dust everywhere. They offered on their own to provide a notarized written statement or whatever else we might might need to that effect.

At this point, is there any justification to notify the EPA as to what has gone on here?

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