Although lead is an appealing building material (thanks to its low melting point), it is also a highly toxic substance that a demolition expert must be able to handle safely. Chemists refer to it as a “broad-spectrum poison,” since it harms many different areas in the body, including the reproductive, digestive and skeletal systems. Lead interferes with red blood cell production, stays locked in bones for decades and can cause symptoms such as:
- Strong stomach pain
- Brain damage (As a linguistic tangent, the Romans called lead plumbum; plumbers were plumbarii. And today, we sometimes refer to people as going “plumb crazy.” The Romans had a special name for lead-induced insanity: plumbism.)
Children are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, since their bodies are still growing and they are more likely to lick or even eat substances that contain lead. For instance, a teething toddler will think nothing of biting a windowsill; if the paint on it contains lead, the young child could be poisoned.
In addition to older paints, lead may also be found in industrial manufacturing facilities, drinking water, and even the soil surrounding lead contamination sites. Lead paint in homes may also leach out into the air and turn up in dust samples. Given these horrific health impacts, the U.S. government requires contractors to be aware of where lead may lurk in homes and businesses.
Because lead is a tremendous hazard within the industrial demolition industry – demolition commonly involving older buildings that contain lead paint – it’s wise for demolition workers to understand how to minimize its negative health effects. The amount of lead present can vary from wall to wall or beam to beam, and knowing the volume you’re dealing with isn’t always helpful in determining what you can or can’t do with the material. Lead-based paint, for example, will form toxic lead dust when heated, scraped or sanded; during such activities, air monitoring is needed to help determine the level of protection and training employees will require.
To ensure compliance with lead-free efforts, the EPA may in some cases require lead certification for a project’s demolition expert. This certification involves completing an 8-hour course taught by an EPA-approved instructor.
Here at Elder Demolition, we are especially vigilant about lead exposure, since we often dismantle industrial plants such as chemical facilities and paper mills. These buildings may contain high levels of lead, depending on their purpose. To protect our employees, our clients, and anyone near our demolition projects, we require all workers to complete annual lead awareness training. Furthermore, our project managers and superintendents must earn 40-hour HAZWOPER certification. As we are an EPA lead-certified demolition firm, you can trust Elder Demolition’s industrial demolition contractor experts to exceed safety standards as far as lead exposure is concerned.
[Photo by: Jo Naylor, Via CC License]