Thursday, July 14, 2011

Clean-Up Time

I think part of what's held me back from blogging over the past week or so is that I've been casting around for positive, light-hearted topics to write about. But really, I'm in a pissy mood so I've given up on going for light and breezy. Just to warn you.

First of all, I'm feeling stressed. Why? Well, primarily because I'm me. Hi! Have we met? If we have, then you already know that I have the type of personality that gravitates towards Stress and Panic and Insane To Do Lists. Or even if we haven't met in person, reading a few of my blog entries should clue you in pretty quickly.

However, I have been working on these tendencies (and will continue to until the day I die, I'm sure. It's on my to-do list!). And there are other circumstances for the increased stress level. Eleanor's third birthday party is a week and a half away. So we're trying to buy presents, organize party details, and clean the house. Except we haven't really done any of that, because we've been focused on getting her new room (the former study/guest bedroom) ready at the same time. It's a lot.

But that's not all! And this is the part that's really bothering me. Our next-door neighbor, whose tan house is visible next to our driveway in the picture above, is getting his house painted. The paint has been peeling for awhile and it's long overdue and it will be great when it's done.

The part that really bothers me is that it is, of course, lead paint. His house was built the same year as ours, and I have no doubt there's lead paint all over the exterior. But see, he hasn't tested for lead paint so he doesn't know 100% for certain that there's existing lead paint.
Plus, no children under 6 or pregnant women live in the house—I guess the fact that we're two feet away from the offending exterior paint is completely irrelevant—so he and his contractors aren't required to follow any lead-safe practices in paint removal.

They've been scraping, sanding, power-washing his house for over a week now. Since July 4th weekend, I've been watching as lead paint chips, large and small, and lead paint dust (which is even worse) coat our house, side porch, yard, etc. Watching from inside the house, running our air conditioner with the windows closed on beautiful summer days.

Our neighbor is not a bad guy. He is actually quite a nice person, and a very considerate neighbor. He even scheduled the workers to start on a long weekend when he knew we were planning to be out of town, because he knows about all of our lead issues. I don't really think, as an individual homeowner, he should have to choose on his own to follow lead-safe practices that will cost him significantly more to get the job done.

I do blame the government. I haven't quite decided yet which branch. But I don't believe that homeowners who live 2 feet from a 2-year-old's driveway/play area should have the choice to release lead paint and dust all throughout the environment. Something is very wrong here. You're telling all consumers that lead paint is very dangerous to a young child's brain development, and as parents we need to spend more than $20k to make our home safe .... but 2 feet away, the same rules don't apply?

For a week and a half now, I've been watching with despair as lead paint chips and dust covers our property that we've spent so much money to have cleaned up and remediated. It makes me feel helpless to ensure a healthy life for my children in even the most basic way. If I can't keep a known hazard out of our immediate environment, what can I do?

In 2008, the EPA issued a "rule requiring the use of lead-safe practices," and it was due to start being enforced in April 2010. (I say "due to start" because I know there was push-back from contractors' associations and it's not clear to me if it's actually being enforced or not.) This required contractors who were disturbing more than 20 feet of exterior paint to follow lead-safe practices in "pre-1978 housing and child-occupied facilities." According to this, the government has just recently decided that the house next door to children and pregnant women does need to be treated the same way, with the same precautions. I can guarantee you that more than 20 feet of paint has been disturbed.

So now what?


Bob said...

Now what? It's America. Time to sue the contractor.

Andrea said...

Contact your local building department and ask what the regulations say. If they don't know about specific lead paint rules, they can point you in the right direction.

I TOTALLY feel for you and agree. It's ridiculous that a neighbor can allow lead paint chips and dust into your yard! They should have contained it somehow!