Managing older properties is part of the game in New England, and it comes with added health and environmental risks because of lead-based paint and asbestos. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 24 million homes in the United States contain substantial lead paint hazards. Follow these tips for your home.
Known Health Risks of Asbestos and Lead-Based paint are common in older properties - particularly in those built before 1978, when the government stopped producing lead-based paint. However newer homes and apartments still contain paint manufactured prior to the ban.
Exposure to lead paint can cause stunted physical and mental development in children, while adults can experience irritability, poor coordination, nerve and reproductive damage. Asbestos, a mineral fiber used in various older building construction materials for insulation and fireproofing, carries a long-term risk of chest and abdominal cancers, and lung disease.
In both cases, you will not be able to detect the presence of either asbestos or lead paint by simply looking. I suggest contacting an authorized contractor to get a recommendation on contaminant removal. “The hard part is determining what is an asbestos hazard and what’s not. If there is a concern, Bjorklund Properties can get an assessment from a properly trained and licensed environmental hazard contractor before moving forward.
In most instances, the presence of lead-based paint or asbestos does not necessarily mean removal. For paint, we recommend managing it rather than re-mediating it. The re-mediation process can release finite dust in the air and create bigger health risks for the tenant. “Lead paint doesn’t become hazardous unless it becomes airborne,” explains John Parker, national chairman, governmental affairs, National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM). He recommends removal only if the paint in an older property is peeling or chipping, which can also be harmful if ingested, especially by small children. “In that case, it should be scraped and repainted before a tenant moves in.” Stein says to be mindful of areas such as windows and doors, which are more susceptible to creating “lead dust” from opening and closing frames. For asbestos, he notes that building material — such as floor tiles, insulation wrap, exterior tile siding and tile roofing — should be thoroughly assessed by a qualified outside contractor to determine if the contaminant is present. All areas should be evaluated before proceeding with any repairs, and property managers should always expect the unexpected. “One of my properties had a pipe wrapped with material that contained asbestos,” Stein says. “When animals were getting into the crawl space and scratching at it for nesting material, they created a potential biohazard.”
EPA regulations vary by state regarding tenant disclosure of lead-based paint and asbestos present in a property. The 1992 Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act requires all property managers to issue the EPA-sponsored information pamphlet, “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home,” to new tenants, which is downloadable online. Additionally, most managers use a Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Form to ensure compliance with EPA regulatory standards. Failure to issue one or both of these documents may subject all property managers to fines, liabilities, and civil and criminal penalties. Although there are no laws in place for asbestos disclosure, Parker says it is still best to ensure legal protection by hiring a qualified contractor to assess and remove the contaminant if it may pose a health risk.
For more information on lead paint and asbestos hazards and regulations, visit www.epa.gov. or don't hesitate to contact Bjorklund Properties by phone.