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Environmental Health Division
Lead Waste Clean-up and Disposal
Worried about lead in your home? If you are living in an older establishment you should be informed. Lead can be a serious danger. Through this web page, designed for property owners, renters and contractors, learn how to safely clean-up and dispose of lead-contaminated waste created during the renovation or remodeling of an older home.
The Dangers of Lead
Lead poisoning is a concern for both children and adults.
It can cause:
- Permanent problems with health, learning, and behavior in young children
- High blood pressure, kidney damage, and fertility problems in adults
You can be exposed to lead any time you breathe lead dust, fumes, or swallow anything that contains lead.
About 75% of homes built before 1978 contain some lead-based paint. The older the home the more likely it is to contain lead-based paint. You should assume that any home built before 1978 contains some lead. To be sure, test your home for lead following the advice found in the MDH web page, Lead Paint Testing.
You can protect yourself from lead by following the appropriate remodeling safety procedures.
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- Place the rags, paper towels, mops, disposable non-washable clothing and shoe covers used during the job and cleanup in a heavy-duty garbage bag and seal.
- Roll up the polyethylene (poly) sheeting to catch the debris and paint chips. Start at the corner and roll the material inward to capture all of the dust and debris, and tape the poly shut with duct tape.
- Wet wash the entire work area with a cleaning solution according to the directions on the container. Be sure to wear waterproof rubber gloves when you wet wash the area. Also, daily wet washing will remove harmful lead dust while you complete the remodeling project.
- Use a wet/dry vacuum to vacuum up the cleaning solution. Be sure to keep about two inches of water in the bottom of the canister. The water will help to hold the lead dust in. The wet/dry vacuum should be used only to vacuum up the wash or rinse water, not to pick up dry dust and paint chips.
- Rinse the area with clean water. Be sure to use two separate buckets, one for the cleaning solution used earlier, and one for the clean rinse water. Also, use two separate sets of disposable rags, one for the washing step and one for the rinse step. Remember to wear waterproof rubber gloves.
- Filter the rinse water.
- Let the debris in the filter dry out and dispose of it as household hazardous waste.
- Put the rags, paper towels, and mops used during the cleanup in a garbage bag and seal.
- Vacuum the work area again with the wet/dry vacuum.
- Wait one hour and repeat the cleanup process. This will allow for the cleanup of any lead dust that may have settled.
- Do not use your household vacuum to clean up lead dust and paint chips! The filter in the household vacuum is not designed to pick up and hold the fine lead dust - it will just spread the lead dust throughout the house.
- Clean up the work area each day. Cleaning up paint chips, dust, and debris will help protect the people working with lead during the remodeling or repair work and the people living in the home.
- Once the worksite cleanup is finished, don’t forget to clean yourself up! Thoroughly wash your hands, face and hair. Make sure that your work clothes are washed separately from any other clothing.
- Hose off patios, decks and driveways to remove soil and lead. Sweeping with a dry broom can scatter lead-contaminated soil.
- Rake or pick up any large paint chips from the soil.
- Put paint chips in a heavy-duty garbage bag and seal for disposal.
- Keep contaminated soil away from people and pets while you are waiting to dispose of it.
- Wrap the contaminated soil in a tarp or sheet of poly, seal the poly with duct tape and store it in an area where children and pets cannot get to it.
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If you have been remodeling a home built before 1978, the following lead-contaminated items may be generated by the renovation activities:
- Paint chips.
- Clean up debris: such as paper towels, sponges, filters, poly and duct tape.
- Bulk materials: such as doorframes, windows and carpet.
- Chemical strippers containing lead paint.
- Cleanup wastewater.
- Contaminated soil.
The person who creates the lead waste is responsible for its disposal. Contractors cannot leave lead-contaminated materials with the property owner for disposal. The United States Environmental Protection Agency allows contractors to dispose of residential lead-based paint waste, such as doors, windows, frames, etc., at construction and demolition landfills. Other materials generated from the remodeling activities, such as towels, mop-heads, plastic sheeting, sponges, etc., must be disposed of at a municipal solid waste landfill.
Minnesota law allows property owners to put lead waste in the trash. However, there are a few things to consider. Does your county burn trash after pickup? If so, harmful lead fumes may be released into the air. Call your county offices to find out if they burn trash. If your trash is burned, the MDH recommends that you dispose of lead paint chips at your local household hazardous waste collection site. Other materials should be taken to a mixed municipal solid waste landfill for disposal. Contact your county environmental health staff for the location of a mixed municipal solid waste landfill near you.Contaminated Soil
Property owners are allowed to bury lead-contaminated soil on site. Be sure to contact your local utility company before digging, to find out if any electrical lines may be buried in your yard. Dig a trench and bury the old soil deep enough so that small children and pets cannot dig it back up. Cover it with uncontaminated soil and some type of ground cover.
Taking the lead-contaminated soil to an approved disposal facility is also an option. However, it can be expensive, and soil can be difficult to move. If you attempt to transport soil, be sure to dampen it and bag it, so it won't blow away. In some counties, the household hazardous waste collection program may be willing to accept lead-contaminated soil. Soil may also be taken to a lined municipal landfill for disposal. Call your county environmental health staff for information on these collection sites. Be sure to call these collection sites to find out if they will accept lead-contaminated soil.
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How do I get More Information?
For more information about lead please contact the Lead Program at the Minnesota Department of Health. You can contact us by calling
(651) 201-4620 or visiting our Lead Poisoning Prevention website.
Lead is a risk for both you and your family. Be informed. Be safe.
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