Angie's List shares how to safely remove lead paint

October 25th through 31st is Lead Poisoning Prevention Week and we’re marking it with this homeowner alert for anyone with a house built before 1978. If you are planning to paint, renovate or strip any wood within it, you first need to get it tested for lead. What to do if the test is positive is this week’s Angie’s List report.

“More than 40 million houses in the United States have lead paint. And it’s really important if you have small children to be very careful when you’re remodeling because you do not want to end up with lead paint poisoning,” Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks says.

Especially for children under 6 years old, ingesting lead paint chips or breathing in lead dust can lead to lifelong learning disabilities, nervous system problems, or even brain damage. Just a little dust can do a lot of damage.

“If you took this much lead dust and you spread it over a 1,500 square-foot home, that house would be contaminated,” says Lead-certified instructor Greg Sauer.

In order to remove it, find a contractor who is certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in safe lead practices and ask specific questions on the removal process.

“A good contractor will list all of the things that they do because they’re proud of the fact that it’s part of their business,” Sauer says.

“We’ve been working with the EPA educating consumers on the dangers of lead paint and the proper procedures for dealing with it, and we’ve seen lots of progress from contractors. But there still are painters that aren’t following the proper procedures, so it’s important consumers educate themselves and are in the driver’s seat,” Hicks says.

Sauer says it’s imperative your painter or remodeler uses plastic drop cloths, not canvas, and a HEPA vacuum for clean-up. And while the paint may be the main culprit, it’s not the only one.

“We think of lead-based paint as the colors on the walls, but that’s not true. It’s also in the lacquers, the varnishes, the shellacs, um, the floor coverings. Those all have lead in ‘em as well,” Sauer says.

Thanks to the E-P-A’s Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule of 2010, it’s illegal for any contractor to disturb lead paint without first acquiring lead-safe certification. You can find a national list of certified contractors on the agency’s web site at You can also learn more from the Angie’s List and EPA’s “Look for the Logo” campaign to raise awareness about lead safety.