Demolition Contractors Talk Scrap Metal and Lead Paint Dangers

Demolition and lead paint

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Most Americans are aware of the hazards of lead paint. While it is almost entirely banned in new manufacturing, lead paint still lingers in older buildings. Because lead exposure can lead to a number of serious and even deadly health disorders, the EPA requires contracting companies to stay up-to-date on lead handling procedures. This regulation applies to builders as well as industrial demolition contractors. Oregon to California, we here at Elder Demolition specialize in commercial and industrial demolition – the type of wrecking work that is most likely to include lead paint. Below, we review how the torching of steel of scrap metal can expose demolition workers to lead poisoning.

Why Lead was Included in Paint

Before lead’s toxicity was fully understood, painters were enamored of the stuff. Lead was used both as a tint and as an agent for improving paint flow. Because lead pigments are extremely opaque, they reduce the amount of paint needed to cover large surfaces. Furthermore, lead boosts durability; it neutralizes acidic oils in paints, which makes the resulting finish stronger, more flexible and crack-resistant. Today, manufacturers use nontoxic titanium dioxide (the same material found in sunscreen) instead of lead to make paints smooth and long lasting.

The Hazards of Lead Paint on Scrap Metal in Demolition

Portland to Poughkeepsie, industrial and commercial demolition contractors must be careful to avoid lead. This noxious substance is found in many different areas of a building, from window frames to pipes. Buildings erected prior to 1960 often contain heavily leaded paint, but any pre-1978 construction can also contain leaded paint.

Contractors must be extremely careful to avoid releasing lead dust or fumes into the air. Lead dust is created when paint containing lead is scraped, heated or dry-sanded. “Torching” scrap metal (heating it to extreme temperatures so it may be cut into smaller pieces) can result in significant lead exposure if done improperly. A study conducted by the New York State Department of Health found that metal recyclers are also exposed to lead when cutting unpainted and new metal. To protect demolition workers from lead poisoning, the EPA requires every contractor and demolition company to be certified in the Lead, Renovation, Repair and Painting Program on certain projects.

This EPA certification program delineates a number of requirements contractors must follow.  Since the EPA only requires these certifications on certain projects there can be a false since of security if you are not careful.  A good rule to follow is that if there is paint present and you are going to torch the material then you must follow all employee protection protocol as well as perform air monitoring to ensure they are protected.   Here at Elder Demolition, we exceed these EPA guidelines and have instituted the following practices to prevent lead exposure:

  • Annual lead awareness training for all foremen, operators and laborers.
    40-hour HAZWOPER certification for superintendents and project managers.
  • Ongoing partnership with Jones Environmental for lead testing and other environmental services.
  • Superintendents trained in hazardous waste emergency response protocol.

As one of the leading steel and scrap metal recyclers on the West Coast, we remove thousands of tons of metal from demolition sites every year. Thanks to thorough, ongoing education and years of experience, our employees are highly educated in how to prevent lead exposure while completing demolition projects in a safe manner. If you’re looking for safe demolition – Portland, Ore., and beyond – look no further than Elder Demolition.

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