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  QUESTION: Lead paint in 3 year olds bedroom. 16 Jan 2004, Victoria Australia

Hi - we inherited my Grandfather's Federation home about three years ago and have just discovered three walls in our three year old sons room have lead paint on them after removing some very old wallpaper.

The walls are lathe and plaster, and two of these walls are structurally sound with no cracks, however the largest wall now has large cracks and pockets of lathe and plaster missing since restumping/levelling the home and we wonder what is the best method for removing this lead paint from our home. We could just seal the two good walls with a bonding agent of some kind, but that leaves us with what to do with the bad wall - patch the plaster, seal and then over paint or try and remove the lathe and plaster and replaster, or try and remove the paint and then fix the plaster. Have you heard of a product called Peel Away - does it work - is it easy to use? All other rooms are lead free as they had been previously renovated by my Grandfather. We are far from well to do and could probably not afford professionals to help us here as we are trying to keep the house in the family? Can you help us or point us in the right direction please?

ANSWER: 17 Jan 2004

Dear Madam,

You're kind of in luck because there isn't a single lead-trained painter in Victoria who just does house-painting. You are therefore more likely to get a lead-safe job done if you do it yourself. I think your best bet is to seek advice about lead paint removal from lath and plaster and restoration or otherwise of the lath and plaster, from a Heritage specialist like David Penlington and he has specific info on lath and plaster on his website - www.painters.com.au/penton-painting-services-glenbrook/# which includes the following:

Penton Painting Services
Contact Information
Phone: (02) 4739 8298; Mobile: 0417 062 769
fax : (02) 4739 6006

Services and further information.
Consolidation of lath & plaster ceilings [and walls] [info on the Westox Method]
Lead Paint management
Peel-a-way & Heritage strippers
Blanket Paint Removal System
As you can see from the above, Peel Away is not the only stripper that Penton considers useful. You can also go to the Heritage stripper website - www.letsclean.com.au/ - and purchase Heritage No1 poultice from Cathedral Stone in Melbourne by phoning 1300 722 155.

On a more serious matter, the age of 3 is an excellent age to have a blood lead test done - simply tell your doctor your house is old and old lead paint from the whole house could have been liberally spread around as dust by the standard paint removal techniques employed by renovators, so you would like a blood lead test. This is the only real way to know whether your grandfather's renovation was lead-safe or not - it very likely wasn't. The dust potentially created by full paint removal in the rest of the house would seem to me to pose a far greater lead hazard to your son than the paint in his room UNLESS he actually eats the paint chips from his room.

I hope this helps.
Yours Sincerely
Elizabeth O'Brien

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