Lead is an extremely useful material, but it must be handled carefully. It acts as a neurotoxin in humans, and if it is ingested or breathed in, it can cause of a variety of health problems from brain damage to organ failure.
Fortunately, government regulations prohibit the use of lead in most consumer products. Lead used to be used in paint, pipes and gasoline, but since removing it from these products, accidental lead exposure has decreased in the U.S. Among its current applications, lead is still used in the nuclear industry because it is ideal for shielding humans from radioactivity.
But if you have items that you suspect are old enough to be covered with lead paint, have removed pipes that may have lead, or have any products that may be contaminated with lead in some way, you need to know how to dispose of them properly.
Is Lead Considered Hazardous Waste?
While lead can be dangerous if handled improperly, it is generally not considered to be hazardous waste by the Environmental Protection Agency and many states. If you have, for example, wood moldings from around windows that may have been painted with lead-containing paint at one time, they can be bagged and disposed of as household hazardous waste.
How Do You Get Rid of Household Items that May Contain Lead?
Regulations can vary by state, but in most areas, you can prepare household hazardous waste by bagging it with heavy plastic (the exact weight may depend on your state laws) and taping the seams. It can also be placed in containers that cannot be easily punctured or broken. Most landfills will accept household hazardous waste, so it can be disposed of with your regular garbage or taken to the landfill as construction debris.
A number of items may contain lead. Some communities have special days for accepting types of household hazardous waste like old paints, batteries or chemicals. Call your disposal company to find out if they offer specific collection options for trash that may contain lead or lead-based paints.
What if the Items With Lead Come from a Commercial Business?
Any items that may have lead-based paint or contain other types of lead and are used in a commercial setting will likely need to be treated as hazardous waste. Businesses can have the suspected lead items analyzed using the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP). If the waste has lead at a level at or above 5 parts per million it may be considered hazardous. A contractor trained in lead abatement may be required to handle the waste and dispose of it properly.
What Responsibility Do Contractors Have Regarding Lead-Based Paints or Items?
Contractors must treat all construction on homes built before 1978 as potentially containing lead-based paint and should take proper precautions to adhere to environmental laws.
The more lead-based items are moved, the more dust they may generate and the more dangers they pose. If items or household waste is to be moved around, such as by a contractor, it must be treated as hazardous waste.
While lead is not overtly dangerous if it is not ingested, steps must be taken to protect susceptible children and minimize the creation of dust that contains lead. Talk to a lead products specialist like one from Nuclear Lead Co., Inc., contractor trained in lead abatement or disposal company to answer your questions about items that may have lead.