Missoula Technology and Development Center Facilities Toolbox: Hazardous Substances in Buildings
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Are lead roofing and flashings a problem?

Lead roofing and flashings are much more likely to be a health hazard for people working with the materials than for people using the building.

Photo of a wall of bricks, with metal flashing in foreground.Lead has been used for roofing for centuries and is one of the oldest flashing materials. It is durable and soft enough to be formed into complex shapes. Lead roofing and flashings can last over 200 years. Generally speaking, lead roofing or flashing that is in good shape may safely be left in place.

Lead can be used safely if worker exposure is monitored and lead is handled properly to avoid skin contact, ingestion, and exposure to lead dust and fumes. If you need to remove lead roofing or flashing materials, follow OSHA requirements for protection and monitoring for workers. OSHA's Lead in Construction Advisor is a free, interactive web site that helps users understand OSHA's Lead in Construction Standard. About half of the States have their own OSHA-approved requirements.

Lead is a toxic hazardous waste that must be managed and disposed of in accordance with Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) subtitle C requirements, including land disposal restrictions. This means that you must handle and remove lead materials using proper personal protective equipment or have a properly equipped contractor do so. Lead waste must be recycled or disposed of at a hazardous waste disposal site. Different States have different hazardous waste disposal and recycling requirements..

Check with local scrap metal recyclers to see whether they accept lead sheets such as roofing and flashing. If the phone book doesn't list scrap metal recyclers, try the member directory of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. You may also be able to take the lead to a household hazardous waste collection event or drop-off location sponsored by your county, city, waste disposal district or company, or health department.

Health Issues: At high levels, lead can cause convulsions, coma, and even death. Lead exposure affects every organ in the body, especially the central nervous system. The effects of lead exposure on fetuses and young children include delays in physical and mental development, lower IQ levels, shortened attention spans, and increased behavioral problems.

(Photo courtesy of C. John Hebert Custom Woodworking http://www.cjohnhebert.com/index.htm)


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