When you or your painter plug in a power tool to attack lead paint, the danger level goes up. Check with your local building department to see what they require. You may have to work within a blue-tarp tent or use specialized tools like the Paint Shaver grinder (paintshaver.com), which has a dust-collecting shroud connected to HEPA-rated vacuum.

Non-flammable paint strippers are another acceptable low-dust alternative, but they can be slow, messy, and expensive.

Heat has long been used to soften old paint so it can be easily scraped off. The problem is that lead starts to vaporize when heated over 752 degrees F, and you can end up breathing in the poisonous fumes. A HEPA respirator(CK) and copious ventilation, should keep you safe. Better yet, avoid using heat guns or plates unless they have temperature controls. Infrared paint strippers such as Speedheater are much safer because they work well below lead's vaporization temperature.

Faced with strict local removal and disposal regulations, many painters prefer to leave lead removal to licensed subcontractors. "Abatement is more than just having the equipment and sucking up the dust," says Portland, Ore., painting contractor Kathleen George. "You need to understand and follow all the rules. I prefer calling in a pro so that I can focus on painting."

For more information, including a listing of risk assessors who can determine the extent of paint problems, and certified abatement contractors who can help solve them, contact The National Lead Information Center or call them at 800-424-5323.
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