Phase One Lead Abatement: Control the dust

Six-mil polyethylene (poly) plastic and duct tape are a remodelers best friends when it comes to catching and controlling dust. Meticulous use of them at this stage greatly simplifies cleanup later.

Spread poly over the floor and completely seal the edges with duct tape (Photo 1), especially if you have wall-to-wall carpet. Once lead dust gets into carpet, its virtually impossible to get out. If you’re working in a small area, say around a single window, poly and tape an area at least 5 ft. beyond the edges of your work zone.

Remove area rugs and as much furniture as possible. Turn off the furnace blower and seal registers with poly and tape so dust can’t get in them during lead paint removal. In addition, keep windows closed so the dust doesn’t blow around. And send any toddlers and pets off to the neighbors so they don’t come barging in.

If you’re working throughout an entire room or near a door, seal off the door to contain the dust. When cleaning time comes, you’ll have to run back and forth to the bathroom to dump dirty water and get a fresh supply. To avoid spreading dust, take off your shoes at the doorway or lay a poly pathway to the bathroom. In especially dusty projects, consider keeping your work clothing and shoes inside the dirty room and changing when you leave.

When you’re working outdoors, extend the poly at least 10 ft. beyond each side of the work area and 10 ft. out from the house. Add 5 ft. to those distances if you’re working on the second floor. And avoid working on breezy days.

Wear Protective Clothing

Wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, rubber gloves and washable shoes. When you’re finished, launder it all in a separate load.

  • Paper-bootie shoe covers (Photo 13) are convenient because they’re easy to remove when you leave the contaminated room. (They’re a bit slippery when you’re walking on poly, though.) Some paint stores carry them, but otherwise get them from medical or occupational health supply stores.
  • The half mask respirator equipped with a P100 filter is essential breathing protection (Photo 4), even though well be working wet to avoid raising dust.
  • Glasses or goggles protect your eyes from falling debris.

All this gear can get hot and itchy on warm days, so try to work on cool days or in the morning. And take a shower after you’re done to wash off all the dust that sticks to you.

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