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QUESTION: We want to install ducted central heating in the ceiling space in our 1960 house - need advice? 09/05/11 Victoria, Australia

We live in a house built in the 1960's and believe that there is at least one layer of lead-containing paint in our house. We don't have heating and want to install ducted central heating in the ceiling space. Could you please tell me what precautions we should take as we have a 4 year old and I am in early pregnancy also. I was wondering whether when the holes are cut out to install the vents they could just tape a square of plastic to the ceiling and cut from inside the ceiling space, and then very carefully dispose of the plastic and the dust. I had a look at your renovating document but am not sure which category of renovations this fits under.

Kind regards,

Alex.

ANSWER: May 12 2011

Dear Alex,

we recommend that before any work is done in the ceiling space, you have the only member of the Australian Dust Removalists Association (ADRA) in Melbourne - Ceiling Alert on 1300139426, mobile 0438 643 513, 03 9346 7668 - remove the ceiling dust.

Even after such professional ceiling dust removal, there will always be some ceiling dust (and potentially leaded ceiling paint) come down into the living space if you allow a contractor to cut holes in the ceiling, so your idea is a brilliant one for managing that aspect of it. Your challenge will be to find a contractor who is lead-safety conscious enough to DO it! Beware of the contractor who SAYS they'll do it and then goes ahead and does it the normal way anyway!

Generally speaking, contractors have zero lead-awareness so are not motivated to prevent lead exposure for themselves or their sub-contractors, let alone for pregnant residents and young children (or pets).

You may be forced to play the "I'm testing my whole family's blood lead levels before and after the work, as well as the floor dust wipe lead levels prior to your work here and again after you've finished, and if the lead dust loading exceeds the Australian Standard after your work, I won't be paying your bill and I will be expecting you to pay for my home to be professionally cleaned" card. Unfortunately, this could turn a contractor off doing any work for you so you might need to convey your plan in a more subtle or engaging-his-compassion way. For instance, you could casually mention that if your blood lead level gets to just half the acceptable blood lead level of 10 micrograms per decilitre, then you will have doubled your risk of spontaneous abortion. This could lead to a big revelation for the contractor as to why his partner may have had a miscarriage (she may have been exposed to take-home lead dust on his work clothes and in his vehicle) so be prepared to offer the guy referral for some counselling or at least a cup of tea...

It is laudable that you are thinking these things through and protecting your family's health. With the kind of preparation you are taking, I can foresee that there is no way you'll be at risk of miscarriage yourself, due to lead exposure.

Please find attached the relevant article:

[Ref: "Blood lead levels measured prospectively and risk of spontaneous abortion" Victor H. Borja-Aburto, Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Magdalena Rojas Lopez, Paulina Farias, Camilo Rios, and Julia Blanco. American Journal of Epidemiology Vol. 150, No. 6, Copyright 1999 by The Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health. All rights reserved. Received for publication August 18, 1998, and accepted for publication January 22, 1999.]

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth O'Brien

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