Indoor Environmentalist: Get the Lead Out!

Guest Article by Jocelyn Melton, Certified Indoor Environmentalist and CEO of Baxter Group

The early 20th-century house sat just off the street of the cozy little Pennsylvania town. There were no curtains in the front window, and a 2×4 could be seen leaning over the inside of the window. The sound of a bandsaw vibrated through my ears. I knocked on the door, the saw went silent, and I was greeted by the smiling faces of the retired couple.

After introductions, Mr. W said, “Let me show you what we are doing.” With enthusiasm, he noted that the kitchen was complete.  He was currently working on the front living room.  After a tour, we settled on the bar stools at the kitchen island. Mr. W pulled out the report from his doctor noting that the lead in his blood was at 97…dangerously high for an adult. He suspected that the lead may be leaching from the solder in the old copper pipes of their home. Their doctor recommended that he have the water tested.

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As my eyes glanced across the counter, I noted it was the only space without a layer of dust. I expressed my concern about the possibility that the dust was the issue. He looked at me puzzled, then commented, “But I’m not eating the dust.” Handing him an EPA brochure, “The Lead Certified Guide to Renovate Right,” I let him know I had brought the water test kit he had requested. I also brought my XRF Analyzer and asked permission to take an analysis of some of the painted surfaces he was disturbing. He nodded his head in a slow, still puzzled, “Yes.”

I walked into the living room, pass the bandsaw, and pressed the nose of the XRF analyzer against the wall, and pulled the trigger. Twenty seconds later the screen displayed the word “negative.” Mr. and Mrs. W released a sigh of relief. Then I went to the pile of debris in the middle of the floor, placed the nose of the XRF against a baseboard and pulled the trigger: positive. Windowsills: positive. Crown moldings: positive.  Hall wall: positive.  Hall floor: positive………

I took a water sample, and a few days later the lab report returned with a negative for lead. The dust wipes I had collected, however, came back with high readings for lead content. When I called Mr. W with the results, it was obvious he had read the pamphlet and had done some online research. He had become an expert on SAFE RENOVATIONS. He had also scheduled an appointment for Mrs. W to have her blood tested.

Asbestos, lead, mold, radon, and other indoor environmental contaminants are not to be feared but respected and controlled during and after renovations. Many environmental hazards do not make us sick the day we are exposed…but months or years later. Through some simple practices, we can keep our family and the community safe from hazardous exposures.

For a copy of Baxter Group, Inc.’s BREATHE HEALTHY e-book, our HEALTHY BUILDINGS CHECK UP or more information on Baxter Group, Inc.’s Breathe Healthy Initiative visit