Probable Lead Paint & A Sander- How Bad Is It?

    by

    So I stupidly sanded down part of a piece of old moulding that most probably had lead paint under the top coat of paint- I sanded it down to the wood underneath, maybe a 1×6″ patch total- no dust mask, not great ventilation.

    The question is NOT how stupid was that (that’s already understood), but how dangerous was that? I used an orbital sander which usually doesn’t catch all the dust either- also, no kids around to worry about.

    No need to pile on the insults, I just wasn’t thinking straight and wanted to get the job done quick- let me know what you think.

    22 Replies

    1. Lets see, I’ve been in the construction biz for over
      30 years. Had my own painting business in the late 70’s and scraped a boatload of lead filled paint in old homes and was a plumber for a nice stretch and probably breathed in my good fill of asbestos tearing old boilers apart. I’m 54 yrs old and still breathing just fine. Oh yeah, and to top that off, I smoked anywhere from 1-4 packs a day from ’72 to 2009. I’ve been smoke free since September of ’09, and I feel great.

    2. Mopar-

      We had gobs of paint stripped during our reno but none of it was sanded. We had a crew come in and strip it with chemicals. Wasn’t that expensive.

    3. It is possible that asking the question on this forum caused more harm to you then sanding the possibly containing lead paint:-)

    4. you will be exposed to more lead & asbestos in a subway station as an express train passes than lead in the area you sanded without protection.

      As far as lead in soil, any lead that is absorbed tends to concentrate in leaves and the outer part of roots. Lead absorption into plants does not concentrate in the fruits (non root vegies).

    5. Lead paint was most commonly used in exterior paint, used on doors and windows, sometimes on windowsills.

      Although it’s not impossible to find it on interior molding and baseboards, it’s not necessarily going to be found because there were other paint formulations used.

      I’d check with a kit for other lead in your environment, wash with TSP like someone above recommended, and something about mopping with dilute vinegar sticks in my head too. That might be just for the plaster dust though.

      Good luck – doubt you’ll die soon!

    6. Lead poisoning can be serious. My dog had it and had to undergo chelation. (Thanks, Williamsburg!) A friend’s kid also had elevated levels, and subsequent problems.

      But the thing about lead is, the younger you are, the worse it is. Crosses the blood/brain barrier more. Causes more damage. As an adult? A little lead exposure is nothing. Now, renovating while pregnant or moving in and renovating with small children? Growing vegetables in a Brooklyn backyard without at least testing the soil? Those things, based on my personal experience, are actually worrisome.

    7. Since you’ve brought it up….it just so happens we’re painting the wood work on one floor right now. Naturally we are sanding it. There is absolutely no other way to prep the wood work. It would be impossible to paint otherwise. I know the lead paint regulations say don’t sand, but it’s absurd. What else could you possibly do — other than rip all the molding out of the walls, of course.

      But it can be very serious for young children. I have a friend whose baby played in a room with paint peeling off the ceiling. His lead levels were off the charts at three months. Their bodies are little and they put everything in their mouths.

    8. I agree with the posters above saying not to sweat it too much. If you are really concerned you can get a blood test to see if you have any exposure issues. A friend of mine did this when he realized he was renovating his lead-paint-filled apartment. (Actually he first did a lead paint test to the apartment and the numbers were off the charts bad) and then he freaked out (understandably) and saw his doctor. He was living in the renovation for months and he had no elevated exposure issues.

      Long story short – you are probably fine but why stress? see your doctor and deal with it if you have any exposure issues.

    9. >I stripped whole doors, newel posts, moldings years ago without giving a thought to lead — because I didn’t know better. Kids in the house and everything. Had my lead levels tested a few years ago out of curiosity, barely showed on the radar. The kids seem to have all their marbles, and the grandkids are fine too. Don’t worry — just be sure to stay away from any of those criminals lighting up cigarettes in Prospect Park. You might get mowed down by the Pure Air Police. 🙂

      Very funny…till you realize that while your kidneys are filtering lead out of your blood stream over time, you are likely to have an increase in blood pressure, increase in sexual dysfunction, and an increased chance of a host of other long term ailments that won’t set in until you are retired. Your doctor might not have explained that your blood test only showed what you have been exposed to recently (the last month or two), not over the course of a lifetime.

      Fortunately, your sense of humor still seems to be intact.

    10. fwiw, the recently enacted EPA regulations (RRP)for dealing with lead paint safely, don’t even kick in until you disturb at least 6 sq ft of a lead paint surface.
      sounds like what you did was well below this threshold and shouldn’t be a concern.

    11. Yeah, the “hype” is only “hype” until it’s your child that has the overly high levels, and the DOH is knocking on your door to “investigate” your house. It’s not very funny then… although since everyone is so flippant about lead it’s happened to two of my neighbors lately. One on Downing and one on Grand.

    12. >it doesn’t sound like this poster is in much danger, however, if he WOULD have children around or a Pregnant person, then we should be giving him advice about proper clean-up procedures

      That was the point of the flippancy, wasn’t it? That it was a miniscule danger to childless OP? And fwiw, yes, the hype around lead and asbestos and no doubt other dangers is definitely exaggerated unless you’re breathing or working with it for long periods (or eating it). Abatement and disposal are big busines now, and they will make sure they get their share. That’s what annoys me.

    13. It’s really annoying how blase everyone on this board is about lead.

      That said, it doesn’t sound like this poster is in much danger, however, if he WOULD have children around or a Pregnant person, then we should be giving him advice about proper clean-up procedures, as ingesting the lead dust is one of the main concerns, and lead dust, unless cleaned properly can manifest in a space for a long, long time if not cleaned properly.

      If you haven’t already, Hepa Vacuum, Wipe every surface wet (pro’s do it double -with different wipes/mops/paper towels) with a heavy duty cleaner (lead abatement people recommend palmolive , I’ve heard, but you can also use a specialty lead removal product from Green Depot) and try to prevent anyone from to eating/breathing/ingesting the lead dust…

    14. I stripped whole doors, newel posts, moldings years ago without giving a thought to lead — because I didn’t know better. Kids in the house and everything. Had my lead levels tested a few years ago out of curiosity, barely showed on the radar. The kids seem to have all their marbles, and the grandkids are fine too. Don’t worry — just be sure to stay away from any of those criminals lighting up cigarettes in Prospect Park. You might get mowed down by the Pure Air Police. 🙂

    15. OP here: Glad to see we all have a good sense of humor about it- i wasn’t deathly concerned, but I was curious- I do want to make it to my 50th birthday.

      Oh and as a precaution, I’ve written you all into my will- you can have the rest of the old mouldings.

    16. Lead is a danger for adults at very high doses or prolonged exposure. What you did to yourself is no big deal. Not to say you should do it again, but I wouldn’t freak out over such a small amount of lead.

    17. **1/2 a square foot**? “probably” lead? If you really think you’re in danger from this sort of thing, put yourself in a hermetically sealed bubble. And that’s not an insult, just an amazed reaction to over-reaction.

      Aren’t you surprised we oldsters are actually alive when we grew up with smoke, asbestos, lead paint, perfume and other stuff?

    18. You might want to clean up the area where you did the sanding. Wash off the surfaces with a few tbsp. of Tri-Sodium Phosphate disolved in a bucket of hot water (wear rubber gloves). Wipe everything down with an old rag.

      I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Children and pregnant women are at far greater risk and long term exposure is worse than a one time thing like this.

    19. Damage done as far as any lead dust. Doubtfult hat you inhaled enough in such a short period of time to do any real damage. Prime it and you no longer have a problem. Next time use a respirator (not just those flimsy cloth dust masks).