LEAD Action News
LEAD Action News vol 4 no 2  Autumn  1996  ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News ( ISSN 1440-0561)

The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.

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Lead Abatement - Case Histories

Robin Mosman, The LEAD Group

LEADLINE receives many calls from inquirers wanting the name of a reliable and lead-aware professional painter. Ten months ago, at the beginning of the project, this was almost impossible to provide. Fortunately, the situation is starting to improve at least in NSW, where more painters are now also contacting LEADLINE for printed information and where a training course, 'Lead Paint Management', is already being run through Macquarie University's Graduate School of the Environment by Professor Brian Gulson and Fred Salome, who are both on The LEAD Group's Technical Advisory Board.

Lead Paint Management course LEADLINE referred to this course all professional painters who rang for information prior to the course being run on 16 to 17 April 1996. A LEADLINE project officer who attended the course herself was inundated with requests for further information from other attendees. These attendees are now potential referrals on LEADLINE's list of lead abatement professionals.

Inquirer 1 works with the Master Painters Association (MPA) in their Queensland head office. She said that leaded paint is quite an issue in Queensland, and the MPA receives a lot of inquiries from the public. However, "A lot of painters are hesitant about going into this area. Across the board, painters are more lead-aware, but a lot of them just don't want the hassle. There's a feeling out there that somewhere there's going to be a test case and they don't want to be it. A lot just don't feel confident, and there's a whole lot of extra work." She receives calls from people in small country towns needing a painter to remove leaded paint "and there's just no-one I can refer them to. I have sent letters to other State associations but painters just don't want to come onto our register." At the time of this inquiry, in Mid- February 1996, the MPA had on their register of lead-aware painters only 3 Queensland contractors, and one each from NSW and Victoria. This was in spite of "lots of different workshops" being run in each state. She thinks that painters may be holding off until a recognised accreditation course becomes available. At the moment she thinks Federal accreditation may be being organised, but she doesn't really know anything for sure. The Queensland MPA is not encouraging local painters to do the Macquarie University training course in case a Federal or State standard conies in and they just have to do it again.

Inquirer 2 is a painter from Queensland who wanted 20 copies of 'Lead Alert'. "I promised copies to my painters and they need to know about lead. If they don't know they might get into some trouble." He had first tried to call the EPA Lead Hotline, but it was not answering. "I'm quite frustrated at trying to get this information."

Inquirer 3 is a partner in a 2-woman painting business in rural Victoria. She contacted LEADLINE for information about how to conduct a lead-safe paint removal for clients converting an old school with 3.5% paint who wanted to practice aqua-culture in their near-by dam. She also wanted to know what she and her partner needed to do to protect themselves.

"We were having so much trouble working out the right way to go. We went to everyone we could think of. We went to the EPA; we went to a friend who is a chemist involved with disposal of hazardous waste - he was the one who had the paint tested for us. What he told us conflicted with what other painters were telling us. Everyone gave us different answers."

They eventually got hold of a 'Lead Alert', through which they contacted LEADLINE. They considered 'Lead Alert to contain good information, but "they should talk a lot more about the dangers of lead fumes. We had a lot of trouble finding the right mask. The people in the hardware and paint shops just don't know enough. We had to go to an industrial wholesaler in the end."

When they first realised the magnitude of the job they had taken on and that their original quote would not cover the additional time needed to do the job safely, they offered the client a number of options, including release from the contract if he found another painter whose quote he preferred. All other painters approached said they would dry-sand using a vacuum bag. The client decided to stick with the lead-aware women, in spite of having to pay more than the original quote.

The women wear carbon-filtered masks, disposable overalls and boots dedicated to the job. They take as many of the precautions recommended by 'Lead Alert' and LEADLINE as possible, although they have found that some have had to be jettisoned as economically un-viable - for example, using new plastic to collect the leaded paint they are removing with heat guns set at 350%. Instead they scrape the paint waste off their large tarpaulin and bag it. "We started by wet scraping and wet sanding but it was just too slow. It's been a learning process. It's very slow and tedious, but also very satisfying."

They were appalled to think that LEADLINE might cease operating due to lack of funding. "We really need a service like this in Victoria. There are hundreds and thousands of old houses that people are doing up. Without something like LEADLINE and its freecall phone, how are people going to find out what to do to protect themselves and their children?"

lnquirer 4 is the wife of a Queensland man who has been a professional painter for 30 years. They became interested in the lead in paint issue when he had a contract to paint a house suspected of being painted with leaded paint, at the same time as another painter was facing litigation for having contaminated a property. The husband is facing a career change because an old injury to his leg is making climbing ladders too difficult. The unimpressive performance of the paint company representative he called in to assess the possible lead problem made him realise that lead assessment would be a useful service to provide. He and his wife began researching the new career of lead assessor.

They obtained LEADLINE's number from 'Lead Alert'. "Contacting LEADLINE was the best thing we ever did. The amount of information we received, both verbal and printed, was invaluable. LEADLINE was always there, providing a very, very professional service. It pointed me in the right direction for the research I needed to do." This inquirer said that the greatest benefit of the LEADLINE information was that "it's so factual. People can believe the information put out by LEADLINE because it's not pushing a line. It's not commercially motivated."

She and her husband had planned to do the course at Macquarie University but had decided not to because of the Master Painters' Association opinion that they would have to do another course if or when a Queensland standard comes in.

With new Lead Compliance Standards for Workplace Health and Safety coming into effect in July 1996, covering all workers in the paint industry, a large paint company has already engaged them to go to all their retail paint outlets to educate the managers about the extent of the lead problem and the health effects of lead.

She was horrified to think of the possibility of LEADLINE finishing. "The government can't afford to do without LEADLINE. The people of Australia can't afford to be without LEADLINE. People need an independent source of information."

Inquirer 5 is a large Sydney contractor doing a lot of work with City Rail. He contacted LEADLINE for information on how to get rid of lead paint waste, and how to get his firm's practices as lead-aware as possible. He was referred to the secondary lead smelter in Sydney's inner west who now accept leaded paint waste (see LEADLINEs Third Quarterly Report), and also to the 'Lead Paint Management' course at Macquarie University. He re-contacted LEADLINE after doing the course to express his thanks at having been referred to it. His firm is now on LEADLINE's referral list.

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