Due to the recent tornadoes, severe and straight-line winds, storms, and flooding in the Southeastern United States, governmental agencies, both federal and state, are warning folks about clean-up hazards. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has warned homeowners, volunteers and other workers to take steps to ensure that individuals, especially children, are not at increased risk for lead poisoning because of clean up and repair work around structures that may contain lead-based paint. Pregnant women and children especially are urged to keep away from work that could disturb lead-based paint. All persons working on potential lead-based paint surfaces should take precautions to prevent the spread of lead dust, which may pose a hazard to children and pregnant women during cleanup resulting from natural disasters.
The Renovation Repair and Painting Rule requires that workers disturbing lead-based paint be trained and certified, notify residents of the lead dust hazards, and follow lead-safe work practices, in order to reduce exposure to lead dust. Because of the nature of the storm recovery work, certain emergency provisions in the RRP apply. Work covered under the RRP rule on storm-damaged housing will not require advance notice or trained renovators to remove materials from homes. Emergency renovation activities are also exempt from the warning sign, containment, waste-handling, training, and certification requirements to the extent necessary to respond to the emergency.
Other renovation activities are subject to the rule requirements. Volunteer workers, who do not receive compensation for work, are not required to be certified. But they should educate themselves about lead-safe work practices so as not to inadvertently cause hazards for themselves or other family members. The RRP program mandates that contractors, property managers and others working for compensation, in homes and child-occupied facilities built before 1978, must be trained and use lead-safe work practices. They are also required to provide a copy of the lead pamphlet “Renovate Right; Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers and Schools” to owners and occupants before starting renovation work. If you need more information relating to lead-based paint, contact the National Lead Information Center at 800-424-LEAD (5323).
The Alabama Department of Public Health has also warned that cleaning up storm-damaged buildings can create serious health and environmental hazards. Buildings that have been damaged can produce a range of materials that may be hazardous. In addition to lead, they include asbestos, home or industrial cleaning products and insulation. Elevated concentrations of airborne asbestos can occur if asbestos-containing materials in many older homes are disturbed. Pipe or other insulation, ceiling tiles, exterior siding, roof shingles and sprayed-on soundproofing are just some of the materials found in older buildings that may contain asbestos. Buildings constructed before 1980 are more likely to contain asbestos. Airborne asbestos can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer of the chest and abdominal linings.
If damaged public and commercial buildings are intact and safe to enter, all regulatory requirements are in force if the buildings are to be demolished or renovated. But, there are no regulatory requirements for damaged public or commercial buildings if they are significantly damaged, are unsafe to enter, and are to be destroyed. During demolition of these heavily-damaged buildings, debris must be kept wet. Complete demolition is unrestricted, but partially damaged structures that are rebuilt must be cleared for lead problems before they are occupied again.
Sources: EPA and Alabama Department of Public Health
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