STEPHEN THOMPSON: Ignorance isn’t bliss when it harms your health or wallet

By Stephen Thompson

Every so often I find out I’m not as smart as I think I am. Recently I learned something very disturbing; what’s worse, I wished I’d heard about it two years ago and wrote this article then.
Thirty professionals, including developers, architects, builders, remodelers, real estate agents and designers, met at City Hall a couple of weeks ago. We were volunteering our talents and brainstorming ideas about how to best revitalize one of Tupelo’s older neighborhoods, when Kenneth Estes – one of the remodeling contractors – told us how a government lead paint regulation would affect virtually every home in the neighborhood.
Fair warning – even if you live outside of Tupelo, keep reading – these Environmental Protection Agency regulations affect all housing built before 1978. Ignorance about this subject can hurt your family’s health as well as penalize craftsmen who work on your property. In fact, the EPA’s website clearly states contractors who do not follow lead paint removal rules can be fined up to $32,500 per violation, per day. Ouch!
Since April 2010, both the U.S. and Mississippi state governments have ruled that surfaces with lead paint can no longer be disturbed, scraped or sanded around any child or pregnant woman. In general, any activity that disturbs paint in housing and child-occupied facilities built before 1978 – including remodeling, repair, maintenance, electrical work, plumbing, painting, carpentry and window replacement – is subject to the requirements.
Divorced dads, if a child under the age of 6 visits your home for more than 60 total hours a year, take note: these rules applies to you, too – even if you are renting. Yes, that’s right; renters, landlords, homeowners and childcare operators all need to be careful about how work is handled in older buildings.
Exceptions to the rules: Owners who are doing renovations on their own property are presently exempt. Also, if you are simply covering lead paint without disturbing it (covering it with new paint, sheetrock or paneling), you are OK.
Most minor repair and maintenance activities are exempt. And, at present, the EPA’s rules don’t apply to homes of the elderly or to homes of peoples with disabilities – unless a child under age 6 years or a pregnant woman resides in or is expected to reside in the home.
Why is this happening? Between 1999 and 2004, an estimated 240,000 children under the age of 6 had high levels of lead in their blood because of lead paint hazards in and around their homes. Lead exposure in children under 6 can impair development, decrease IQ and attention span, and increase risk for delinquent behavior.
Although the U.S. has banned lead paint for residential purposes since 1978, approximately three-quarters of Mississippi homes built before 1978 contain some lead-based paint. It may be on any surface, but is most commonly found on exterior-painted surfaces, interior woodwork, doors and windows.
If you live in an older residence, have peeling, chipping, chalking or cracking paint, and you want to fix the problem yourself, talk to your paint salesperson or call the National Lead Information Center (800-424-5323) about how best to protect your family. If you have a serious problem and you wish to hire someone to fix it for you, type “Mississippi Lead-Based Paint Certifications” into any online search engine to find a local, reputable lead renovator or renovation firm.
Live in beauty!
Stephen Thompson, Allied ASID has been creating coordinated, beautiful, tasteful interiors since 1975. For questions, comments, or consultations contact Designer Connection, P.O. Box 361, Tupelo, MS 38802 or stephen2816@mac.com