The early 20th century house sat just off the sidewalk of a side street of the little Pennsylvania town. The missing steps and deserted tools evidenced the porch under construction. 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 running bandsaw vibrated through my ear as I headed for the side entrance as instructed in our phone conversation. I knocked on the door, the saw went silent, and I was greeted by the retired couple. Huge smiles and a welcoming hand captured my attention immediately. As I shook Mr. W’s hand, he gently drew me into his kitchen.
After introductions, he said, “Let me show you what we are doing.” With enthusiasm, he noted that the kitchen was complete, and he was currently working on the front living room and performing some work upstairs. After a tour of the living room, fireplace room, back porch and upstairs living room, 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 and current renovation project. They had stopped drinking from their well water, but their doctor recommended that he have the water tested.
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. Mr. W looked at me puzzled, then commented, “But, I’m not eating the dust.” I handed him the EPA brochure, “The Lead Certified Guide to Renovate Right” and let him know I had brought the water test kit he had requested on the phone. I had also brought my XRF Analyzer and would like to have permission to take an analysis of some of the painted surfaces he was disturbing. Staring at the pamphlet, he nodded his head in a slow, still puzzled, “Yes.”
I walked into the living room, walked pass the band saw, pressed the nose of the XRF against the wall, and pulled the trigger. Twenty-five seconds later the screen displayed a number and the word “negative.” Mr. and Mrs. W released a sigh of relief as I announced the negative reading. Then I went to the pile of baseboards that had been removed from the wall, placed the nose of the XRF against one of them and pulled the trigger: positive.
- Windowsills: positive.
- Crown moldings: positive.
- Hall wall: positive.
- Hall floor: positive.
- Fireplace mantel: positive.
- Stair rail: positive.
- Stair stringer: positive.
- Stair tread: positive.
- Bedroom wall: positive.
I took a sample of the water, 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 not only read the pamphlet I provided him with, he had also done some on-line research. He had become the expert on SAFE RENOVATIONS. He had also scheduled an appointment for Mrs. W to have her blood tested. He shared his deep regret that he had not protected his wife of 40 years from potential lead poisoning. Mr. W. would have been safe if he had contained the work areas so as not to cross-contaminate the areas around the work area and had he donned the proper personal protective equipment. He then added, “… and what else could I have disturbed that could cause us and our visiting family future health issues?”
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