Lead regulations can be very confusing, especially for contractors trying to do things right. The first and main question as a contractor that you need to ask is “is the building considered child-occupied?” . The EPA defines a child-occupied building as a building or portion of a building, constructed prior to 1978, visited regularly by the same child, under 6 years of age, on at least two different days within any week, provided that each day’s visit lasts at least 3 hours and the combined weekly visits last at least six hours, and the combined annual visits last at least 60 hours (yes, that’s a mouthful and hard to remember). Examples of child-occupied facilities are daycare centers and elementary schools, but can certainly include other facilities as well. This article is to provide information to contractors who are NOT working in target housing or child-occupied facilities.
Let’s look at a courthouse for instance. Let’s just make the normal assumption that there is no daycare attached. Let’s also assume that the state that you are working in does not extend lead regulations to public and commercial buildings. States have the authority to do that, so you would need to check with the state agency. There has been consideration by EPA to extend their lead regulations to commercial and public buildings, but for now, their regulations only apply to target housing and child-occupied facilities. So our list of assumptions has gotten lengthy…..let’s say that we are working in a court house in SC, NC, or GA (these states do not extend lead regulations to public or commercial buildings). In this situation, you are dealing with OSHA and disposal issues. Keep in mind that OSHA is responsible for employee exposure, not the environment, so their regulations are there to keep the employees who are doing the work safe. OSHA does not specify a lead content in paint like the EPA does. EPA considers paint as lead-based if it has a lead content of 1.0 mg/cm2 or 0.5% by weight (this is the level you when you would use when making decisions regarding work practices in target housing or child-occupied facilities). The OSHA standard (Lead in Construction Interim Final Rule, 29 CFR 1926.62) indicates that if airborne lead levels exceed the Action Level (AL is 30 µg/mm3) from a potential disturbance, then an employee exposure assessment would be required. The key points of the OSHA standard regarding lead are summarized very well in this document: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3142.pdf
The other issue is disposal. Regulations can vary from state to state, but the main point of confusion across the board seems to be the testing required prior to disposal. In many states, components that are painted with lead-based paint can be disposed of in a Class II or C&D landfill; however, if the paint is removed from the component, then it has to be determined if the paint chip waste is considered hazardous waste when analyzed by toxicity characteristic leaching procedure (TCLP)….usually referred to as “tee-clip”. The lead level reported by means of paints chips or XRF is not what determines disposal. TCLP samples tell what the leachable lead is in a waste stream, so all waste generated is included in the sample (sand if the lead is removed by sand-blasting, etc.). If the lead content is reported as ≥5 parts per million, then it must go to a hazardous waste landfill.
If you are a contractor taking on the task of removing lead-based paint, and are trying to do things right/stay out of trouble, then we can assist by helping you understand the regulations, performing an initial exposure assessment (personnel air monitoring), and/or collecting samples to determine how it needs to be disposed of.