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The Home Lead Inspection Process: An Interview with Don Stader of Bay Area Lead Detectors

By Don Stader

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

Bay Area Lead Detectors inspects residences and commercial properties for lead-based paint and lead hazards. We also perform clearance inspections to determine if a property is free of lead dust and lead contamination after renovation or remediation activities. Bay Area Lead Detectors was established in 2010.

I decided to become a California Department of Public Health Certified Lead Inspector/Risk Assessor after taking the EPA's Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule certification training. I felt strongly that it was important for contractors (like myself) to know what they working with instead of presuming that all painted building components were positive for lead-based paint. Once I started inspecting homes for lead-based paint I realized I was inspecting homes mostly for people with young children and people about to have children. I found being able to provide them with the information they needed in order to protect their children from the effects lead has on children and adults was very gratifying.

Can you list the steps of the lead inspection process?

There are three steps in the inspection process:

  1. The first step begins when the person wanting the inspection contacts me. I usually look at the residence on the internet (Zillow, Redfin, Trulia, etc.) to see the size and style of the residence. With that information I provide a fixed price proposal to perform the inspection.
  2. The second step is the on-site inspection process. I use a Niton X-Ray Fluorescence Analyzer (XRF) to determine the presence (and absence) of lead in each painted building component in every room of the residence and on each exterior component on each exterior side of the building; the condition of each component is also visually assessed and noted. I follow the testing protocol found in chapter 7 of the HUD Guidelines For the Evaluation and Control of Lead-Based Paint Hazards in Housing. This is the protocol required by HUD and the California Department of Public Health's Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch (CDPH). I also test tile and bath tubs for lead. We can also test consumer products (plates, toys, etc.) for lead.
    The XRF determines the quantity of lead in the sample area within seconds, returns a result in milligrams of lead per square centimeter of sample area (mg/cm^2 ). 1 mg/cm^2 is the level at which paint is considered to be lead-based paint (this is called the Action Level). The instrument stores the test results until they are downloaded into the computer. I also test any bare soil around the perimeter of the building with the instrument (this is called Insitu soil sampling) for lead in soil. When I have completed the XRF testing I measure the building in order to produce a CAD drawing of the residence. Any positive test results are noted on the drawing in the location where the test was conducted.
  3. The third step of the inspection process is the inspection report. I download the XRF test results into my computer, organize and arrange the test data by room and component and classify each building component as either positive or negative for lead-based paint. I produce the drawing of the residence and note the location (by reading Number) of each positive result on the drawing. I produce a written report which includes the XRF results, soil results, the drawing, a summary of the inspection results, specific recommendations for any lead hazards discovered along with general recommendations for components containing lead-based paint. I include the CDPH required reporting form 8552 ( a copy goes to CDPH) and sample real estate disclosure form. The report is assembled into a single PDF document and is emailed to the customer.

What are a few signs that lead might be present in your house?

Any home built prior to 1978, the year lead was banned in paint for residential use may contain lead-based paint. Any lead-based paint in a deteriorated condition is considered a lead hazard. The only efficient method for discovering lead-based paint in the home is by XRF analysis. Paint chip sampling is another way; however the number of samples required to thoroughly inspect a home is prohibitive and the sampling process damages the paint, potentially releasing lead into the home.

If detected, how can lead be removed from a home?

If lead-based paint is discovered and the resident wants the lead paint removed then that must be done by a CDPH certified lead-abatement contractor.If the intent is to remove lead-based paint then the work is considered lead abatement. If, for example, tile, and componants in your bathroom contain lead, and you decide to remodel the bathroom, then a contractor who has their EPA Lead Renovation Repair and Painting Rule (LRRP) certification and EPA registration can by employing Safe-Lead Work Practices remove those positive components during renovation. There are also temporary (interim controls) control measures that can be employed to reduce/eliminate lead hazards in the home.

Does the presence of lead affect anything homeownership related?

I have inspected many homes for lead-based paint and lead hazards for prospective buyers. I have never had a sale cancellation due to the lead- based paint inspection results. In fact, with the growing awareness of the insidious effects lead has on the human body, especially children, more people are demanding to know if lead is present within the home. I have yet to inspect a residence where every component contains lead-based paint, and I have tested some very old properties. Having the inspection results provides the property owner a great opportunity to not only reduce or eliminate lead and lead hazards while they own and live in the home, but to provide prospective purchasers with a detailed report of where lead-based paint exists and where it doesn't. Being able to walk through a residence and see for themselves that the positive components are in an intact condition and that there are no lead hazards, rather than assuming that all the paint is lead-based paint will help to sell the home quickly.

Is this service a one standard fee, or is there more to the payment process?

I look at each home individually. The size and architecture drive the inspection cost; smaller less architecturally embellished houses have fewer components to be inspected and therefore cost less to inspect that multi story, large square footage homes with architectural embellishment (a 3,500 square foot Victorian style residence will cost more to inspect than a 1,200 Sq.Ft. contemporary styled residence.

A valid lead-based paint inspection is a significant effort and costs more than a standard home inspection, however I believe the information provided is tremendous value.

How long does it take to get back the results about the lead testing?

Depending on the inspection location and duration I usually provide the customer with the XRF results the same day as the inspection with the complete report emailed to the customer within three business days.

What is the best way for people to reach you and or your company?

I can usually be reached by phone (415) 613-9586 or by email If sending an email and they include the property address I will respond with an inspection estimate.

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I decided to become a California Department of Public Health Certified Lead...

Phone: 415-613-9586

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