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March 27, 2019

What is a Lead Paint Survey and Inspection?

By Benjamin Jelin, Ph.D., CIH, CSP


Lead is dangerous to many sensitive populations, including (most commonly) young children, the elderly, chronically ill adults, and adults whose occupations risk lead exposure. Half a million American children between the ages of 1-5 have “elevated” levels of lead (at least 5µg/dL) in their blood. There have been no established blood lead concentrations where there is no risk as the National Toxicology Program concluded that there is sufficient evidence for adverse health effects in children with blood lead concentrations below 5µg/dL. The most common exposure vectors of lead are dust, soil and water. But in America, the vast majority of lead poisoning in children comes from old paint.

Lead was used as an additive to make paints shiny and more durable, and brighter in color. If a structure was built prior to 1978, when lead containing paint was outlawed in the United States, there could be a possibility it has lead-based paint on site. Per the most recent American Healthy Homes Survey (AHHS), one in seven homes in America contains exposed lead paint, with commercial structures likely harboring similar numbers. Therefore, a necessary component of any due diligence transaction for pre-1978 buildings is a lead-based paint assessment by a knowledgeable, certified (if abatement is required) environmental professional.

When Do You Need Lead Testing?

Lead-based paint (LBP) inspection and testing is very commonly required as part of due diligence for multifamily and commercial real estate transactions, as well as prior to demolition or renovation of buildings, particularly buildings constructed prior to 1978, because they are at a much higher risk of containing lead-based paint.

LBP inspection at these facilities is prudent especially when peeling or damaged paint is identified, or when these facilities are occupied by children, who are most susceptible to lead poisoning by ingestion of paint chips or dust or in extremely rare cases, ingestion of water contaminated with lead.

Renovation and demolition activities may also disturb lead-based paint or generate leaded dust, so lead sampling of materials coatings prior to these activities is important for compliance with OSHA regulations.

Many lenders require this inspection as part of their due diligence, including for US Department of Housing and Urban Development financing and, in some cases, Small Business Administration financing. In its latest SOP update for due diligence guidance, the SBA has mandated that any child-occupied facility (such as a day care or child care) should undergo a lead risk assessment and testing for lead in drinking water from all taps and fountains that could be used as a water source for children. The assessments should conform to EPA regulations at 40 CFR 745 and HUD’s guidelines “Evaluation and Control of Lead-Based Paint Hazards in Housing, Second Edition (July 2012).” Based on the conditions of the property and initial findings of the Environmental Professional, different types of lead assessment and paint sampling (described below) may be warrnated.

Types of Lead-Based Paint Inspections and Testing

Below are some common types of inspections and testing. These are tailored to building characteristics, client needs, and lending institution requirements.

Lead-Based Paint Inspection
Lead-based paint analysis inspections are possible utilizing several different devices and procedures, each of which has specific benefits for the client. Hand-held XRF testing devices eliminate the need for laboratory analysis, provides direct reading results on site, and avoid the potential generation of leaded dust due to disruptive sampling. Paint chip testing gives definitive results acceptable to OSHA and allows for confirmation of non-lead-based paint XRF readings. Wipe testing is available to test for potential lead dust. This is typically required on HUD inspections of buildings constructed prior to 1960.

Lead Risk Assessment
Lead risk assessment entails a comprehensive evaluation of all potential lead hazards on a site, including lead-based paint, lead dust, lead in water, and/or lead in soil.

Lead Clearance Inspection
A lead clearance inspection on all projects involving abatement (as defined by the EPA) must be done by a certified risk assessor or a certified lead-based paint inspector. Clearance refers to combined visual and quantitative environmental evaluation procedures to determine that no lead-based paint hazards remain in the area being cleared after lead hazard controls or paint-disturbing renovation or maintenance have been performed.

Should it be deemed that lead-based paint removal is necessary, contractor oversight and air monitoring can help ensure safe, compliant and effective cleanup of abatement activities.

Only a team of certified professionals that stays current with state, local, and federal regulations and certifications requirements can provide adequate due diligence to ensure assessment of the presence of lead-based paint. This includes certifications such as the EPA Certified Lead-Based Paint Inspector, EPA Lead-Based Paint Risk Assessor, and EPA Lead-Based Project Monitor, local and state certifications, as well as intricate knowledge of Federal and State regulations.

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