Action News vol 3 no 4 Spring 1995.
At the time LEADLINE began being asked for referrals for ceiling dust removal, there was only one contractor (1) in Sydney who had possibilities for a lead-aware operation. We were aware of the situation where unsafe ceiling dust removal practices in Boolaroo had led to increased blood lead levels, and so monitored the contractors performance carefully. One of the project officers engaged him to remove ceiling dust from her home, and observed the operation, which was not satisfactory. The contractor was given verbal and written advice on ways to improve his service, and advised of the need for him to be blood lead tested in order to ascertain the safety of his operation. He was not willing to do this.
A second contractor (2) was recommended to us and interviewed by us, and on the basis of his stated operation procedure we gave referrals to him. However, monitoring revealed that he too was using unsafe practices.
As this situation coincided with increasing public awareness of the possible dangers of leaded ceiling dust, it posed a considerable dilemma. Fortunately at about this time LEADLINE was contacted by a building contractor (3) interested in establishing his company as a ceiling dust removal contractor. Through meetings with LEADLINE project officers, and a wide range of experts to whom he was referred by LEADLINE, he has been able to have special HEPA vacuum equipment designed for safe removal of ceiling dust (at a cost of $18,000), and has established an excellent, professional and lead-aware service.
His company is a tribute to the co-operation between The LEAD Group and the fledgling lead abatement industry in Australia, and one of the great achievements of CEPAs funding of The LEAD Groups information and referral service.
In early December when Sydney radio station 2CH offered an advertising package regarding removal of ceiling dust to the dust removal company, LEADLINE were able to offer to check the advertising scripts for accuracy for 2CH.
In mid-December LEADLINE was able to refer the company to the insulation firm who have been appointed suppliers to the Sydney aircraft noise insulation project.
Case (a) was a mother of young children, who had recently bought a Federation house in Marrickville and was concerned about the ceiling dust - "these ceilings are bulging". When re-contacted, she said the information supplied to her by The LEAD Group had been great, but that the family had been away on holidays for 3 weeks and so far she has not acted on the ceiling dust removal. She said she would definitely be following up on the removal because they are in the flight path and will be having their ceiling sound-proofed. We were able to give her a second referral as the new contractor has now begun operating and she was very pleased to have this for a price comparison.
Case (b) was a home renovator who had been up into his ceiling while renovating and found "kilos of the stuff upstairs". In the first contact, he stated that he was already quite lead-aware through his work and that his 18 month old daughter had a borderline high blood lead and was being monitored. He said he didnt need any further information, so was given only 2 referrals to ceiling dust removalists by phone. On re-contacting, he said that he had received quotes from the 2 firms but one quote was more expensive than the other and he wants more information from them on exactly what each is offering. He is definitely going to get the work done. He had his blood lead tested initially at work. When it was found to be borderline high, his wife and child were tested and found to have similar levels. Further discussion established that he was still renovating in a non-lead-aware manner and had not done a clean-up because the job was not finished yet. He then asked for additional information to be sent, saying "Perhaps Im not as lead-aware as I thought I was". He also decided that he should have his blood lead tested again, and that if his was still high to re-think his renovation strategy.
Case (c) was a pregnant mother of 2 young children (1 and 3 years) in whose home attic stairs had been cut into the ceiling. "The ceiling is full of dust". On re-contact, she said that they had not had the ceiling dust removed professionally because the contractor had not come out to give a quote, and because of the likely cost. They rented an industrial vacuum cleaner and her husband did the job "fairly unsuccessfully - theres still a lot up there". Her husband wore a respirator and had his skin fully covered. She had not had the childrens blood lead levels tested yet as she had been without transport.
When asked if she had changed her housekeeping and childcare practices as a result of the information from The LEAD Group, she said "Im certainly more aware if a little more paranoid - I see it all around me - we do as much as we can - the children are restricted to a deck. We agonised about where to go when we bought the house - but this is where we want to live. The LEAD Group is doing a great job - their information was fantastic. When I saw my GP and raised the problem of lead at the time of my first pregnancy, she just laughed - said what was I going to do about it if it was up. Knowing what I know now, that I could have done something, I feel quite angry."
Case (d) was about to start renovating at the time of his first contact with us. He was advised of the need to protect his pregnant wife during the process. He did not in fact get his ceilings vacuumed at the time of the renovation because although he tried twice to get on to the only contractor to whom LEADLINE could refer him at the time, his calls were not answered. He said he would still consider getting the job done, so was given a second referral to a new contractor who had started operating since his first contact.
When asked if The LEAD Groups information had caused him to make any changes from his previous renovation practices, he said "It definitely raised my awareness of health issues regarding lead". As a result, he went to considerable efforts - all furniture, clothing etc was put in one room and sealed off during the renovation, he used an ionised air filter while working, and he and his wife moved out during the renovation. He was grateful for the re-contact and new referral.
Case (e) initially contacted the first contractor following a newspaper article. She described her dealings with him as an "absolute nightmare - he stood us up on an appointment - my husband took time off work and he didnt even phone". She said his attitude was "Im the only one doing this so you really dont have a choice". After talking to him she had real concerns about the safety of his operation.
She then contacted LEADLINE. We were able to recommend contractor (3). She described their service as "quite fine - very, very professional. Id recommend them to anyone else. They confirmed their appointment, they cleaned up after themselves, they left nothing in the street. It was more than double the price (of Contractor 1) but thats not an issue if you know the job has been done safely".
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Updated 17 November 2012