St. Leonard woman help­ing to get the lead out

Change in law brings more homes un­der lead paint in­spec­tion rules

Maryland Independent - - Business - By DAR­WIN WEIGEL dweigel@somd­ Twit­ter: @somd_bized­i­tor

Lead can still be a prob­lem in homes de­spite the metal’s na­tion­wide ban from house­hold paints in 1978. And a Mary­land law that took ef­fect last year now re­quires rental prop­erty own­ers to test for lead, reg­is­ter the dwelling and pro­vide ed­u­ca­tional brochures to ren­ters if the house was built be­fore 1978.

“I knew that the law was get­ting ready to change, which was Jan. 1, 2015,” said lead paint in­spec­tor Kathy Ol­son of St. Leonard. “I saw an op­por­tu­nity be­cause the pre­vi­ous law was if your house was built prior to 1950 it had to have lead paint cer­tifi­cates done. With the change it went to 1978 and prior. There’s a lot of years of houses that need to be in­spected.”

Ol­son, who had re­tired from 25 years of nurs­ing, earned her in­spec­tion cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and started Lazillo Lead In­spec­tors, and she’s been kept busy ever since help­ing prop­erty own­ers get caught up with in­spec­tions and pa­per work and to get in com­pli­ance with the Mary­land Depart­ment of the En­vi­ron­ment.

“There’s a lot of old houses in South­ern Mary­land — all these farm houses,” Ol­son said. “This is ba­si­cally about ei­ther buy­ing a new home or it’s a rental prop­erty. Owner oc­cu­pied prop­er­ties do not need to be tested. Sec­ond homes do not need to be tested if they are not rented.”

“If you’re the home­owner, and owner oc­cu­pied, it’s com­pletely up to you,” she said. “This pro­gram is to pro­tect chil­dren and preg­nant women. That’s the tar­get.”

Par­ents with young chil­dren liv­ing in an older home should get an in­spec­tion, Ol­son said, and a fu­ture buyer might re­quire it as part of the terms of sale.

“Some peo­ple want to know be­cause they just want it cleaned up to make it safe,” she said. “Buy­ers, they def­i­nitely want to know be­cause they’re mov­ing their chil­dren or fam­ily into the house.”

For rental prop­er­ties, the lead in­spec­tion has to be done ev­ery two years or with a change of oc­cu­pancy, ac­cord­ing to a fact sheet dis­trib­uted by MDE. An ex­cep­tion to that is if the home can earn a “lead free” or “limited lead free” cer­tifi­cate. Those cer­tifi­cates are good for the life of the prop­erty.

Ol­son said she uses an “X-ray flu­o­res­cent an­a­lyzer” gun for that type of in­spec­tion. It re­quires “shoot­ing” all of the paint sur­faces close up and it can de­tect the pres­ence of lead through as much as 50 lay­ers of paint. While the in­spec­tion costs a bit more, start­ing at around $400 for the small­est home, if the house passes it gets the life­time cer­tifi­cate.

“It gives me a read­ing and tells me neg­a­tive, in­con­clu­sive or pos­i­tive,” Ol­son said. “When I leave that job I can tell you if you have lead paint or not.”

“If I’m do­ing the lead-free for life test­ing, this is the in­stru­ment I use.”

If there’s a good prob­a­bil­ity of lead paint, Ol­son said the only al­ter­na­tive is to do a vis­ual and “dust wipe” in­spec­tion. That type doesn’t earn a life­time cer­tifi­cate but gen­er­ally costs less.

“If I have a 1938 farm­house and it’s rented — it needs to be tested — that’s go­ing to get a dif­fer­ent type of cer­tifi­cate or in­spec­tion,” she said. “That is go­ing to be, in lay­man’s terms, dust wipe sam­pling.”

“This test­ing is made for houses that we know have lead in them. They can­not pass that other in­spec­tion, so this is what their op­tion is.”

Ol­son said she goes over the process with her clients two to three weeks be­fore the sched­uled in­spec­tion so they know how to pre­pare, such as per­form­ing a thor­ough clean­ing and re­pair­ing chipped and peel­ing paint which could trig­ger a fail.

“The vis­ual in­spec­tion it­self costs $155,” she said. “The wipes are $14 apiece. That covers the lab anal­y­sis. If you’ve got 10 rooms and they’ve all got win­dows, I’m go­ing to be do­ing 20 wipes. You can see, that also runs up.” Each room with a win­dow re­quires a min­i­mum of two wipes.

Though Ol­son hasn’t yet come across a failed in­spec­tion, she said if a dwelling can pass muster the next step is abate­ment.

“If it’s in a wall, you’re talk­ing ma­jor ren­o­va­tion. If it’s in a win­dow, you can re­place that win­dow with­out too much prob­lem,” Ol­son said. “Af­ter that I go back and do a clear­ance in­spec­tion.”

“If they do abate­ment, they have to use an MDE abate­ment con­trac­tor,” she added. “If they have their Joe Blow next door neigh­bor do the work it is not ac­cept­able. I need to sub­mit a su­per­vi­sor’s state­ment of work and they have to have [an MDE] ac­cred­i­ta­tion num­ber.”

Even homes go­ing back into the 1960s can of­ten earn a “lead free” or “limited lead free” cer­tifi­cate, she said, though some­times a painted cin­der block foun­da­tion can be prob­lem­atic.

“I have not, hon­estly, had one of these fail yet,” she said. “If they lis­ten to me and they do what I tell them to do, then there’s not a bunch of lead float­ing around. They get their pass and that’s what they’re look­ing for.”


Kathy Ol­son of St. Leonard demon­strates the X-ray flu­o­res­cent an­a­lyzer gun she uses in her lead paint in­spec­tion busi­ness. The gun al­lows her to give a life­time lead-free cer­tifi­cate in some homes.

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