My friends in the hazardous materials industry have recently informed me that the levels considered “safe” for lead have recently been lowered. Coupled with the hiring of more WorkSafeBC staff here on the south island (more visits from them), this means that lead is the new asbestos.
I have been chatting about how asbestos (heck, any hazardous material) and it’s impact on a project means that people now have to decide if the project is “worth” it due to the additional costs of hazardous materials handling that is really just a part of demolition. The changes to the lead levels mean, for example, that the exterior paint on most old buildings now has to be removed as a hazardous material if you are doing any renovations or demolition. If you scroll down the link here, you will see a reference to a WorkSafeBC document that warns the homeowner that a “cheap” bid may mean that your contractor is not doing their job when it comes to hazardous materials.
A recent project that I got told about had the client wishing to demolish and completely remove an old house. The exterior was painted with lead paint. This meant that the exterior had to be removed in four foot square sections (the special bags are four foot cubes) while encapsulated (think inside a tent) and disposed of at a special section of the landfill. Once again, our local Hartland landfill is the only one on the island that takes this stuff, and the demolition firm will charge roughly $1,250 a bag. Yup, a bag. Plus the cost of doing all the work is on top of that. Think European vacation, 5 star, business class flight, for a month. Oh, and once all that is finished, you still have to tear down the house. And build a new one.
This gets back to the Latin expression caveat emptor, let the buyer beware. It has been my experience that you cannot rely on anybody but yourself to be sure that before you buy an older house that will become your new home, you need to go through a complete checklist of items that will take both time and money. Nasty stuff, but essential. The cost of a real fixer upper in the south island (in a decent neighborhood) is now roughly $500,000, why would you not check all this stuff out? Ignorance, emotion, wilful blindness, or some combination of them.
As with so many things in life, this topic requires some action on your part. Contact somebody who knows what to look for who can give you meaningful answers. So what are you waiting for, get the lead out!