Senator Pat Jehlen Op ED: Lead Paint Safety


Contractors, homeowners and owners of child care centers built before 1978, take note. A recent update – Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP) – requires contractor supervisors to take a one-day class on lead paint safety and contractors to be licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards (DLS). Residential landlords who renovate or paint must also take the course.

Lead is an extremely toxic poison that has lasting, serious effects, such as kidney disease and reproductive disorders; for young children it can cause learning and behavioral problems and lower IQ, among many other issues. Because of these dangers, when hiring a contractor be sure to first ask to see a company’s “lead-safe” license and the “Renovate Right” booklet, both of which are required to be provided by each company. If you are a do-it-yourself homeowner with no tenants, these rules don’t cover you, but you should also work safely – otherwise you could harm yourself, your family and even the neighborhood children.

This update occurred because many children and adults have been lead-poisoned from unsafe painting and repair projects in Massachusetts and around the country. Studies and government reports indicate that around 20% – 30% of lead-poisoned children are exposed during such home renovations. Government health and labor agencies report that professional house painters and do-it-yourselfers are also frequently lead-poisoned.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 44% of homes in the Commonwealth were built before 1950, a period when the great majority of houses were painted with lead paint. Many houses constructed between 1950 and 1978 also have lead-based paint on them, especially on the exterior. If you are working on an older home, the chances that you are disturbing lead paint are greatly increased.

A close friend of mine discovered lead in the wood in their home during a recent renovation. The lead was accidentally tracked through the house, endangering the children and family. Many people are unaware that anytime renovations are done to the home, disturbing older wood, there is a potential for danger involving lead. Unsafe home renovations, painting and repair projects have the potential to harm both those directly involved and those who live in the residence. It is essential that the proper safety precautions are taken to protect all involved, especially children who are exceptionally vulnerable to the dangers of lead.

October 21-26 is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. Don’t risk your health and the health of those around you. Renovate Right! For more information, contact the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards: (617) 626-6960,; Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health: 1-800-532-9571 or 617-624-5759,

State Senator Patricia Jehlen, Second Middlesex District

Richard Rabin
Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health

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