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Preparing For An Audit...

Preparing for Grant Audit

The past couple of weeks we have been helping a client prepare for an audit. It’s not an EPA audit, it’s a State audit of a CDBG grant. However, this started me thinking about how truly unprepared some people, companies and municipalities must be when it comes to audits. We have not gone through one of the State’s, but have gone through other audits, including the EPA. Despite this, and trying to cross our T’s and dot our i’s, it’s still a little unnerving.

So just how do you prepare for an audit? Take a deep breath. If you have been trying to follow the regulations, you shouldn’t have a problem. The first thing to do is find out what you’re being audited for. Is it for a specific time frame? Is it for a specific project or is this a general records audit?


Set Up the Appointment

DO NOT BLOW OFF SETTING UP A DATE FOR THE AUDIT. DO NOT BLOW OFF THE AUDIT. The audit will not go away. Put on your big girl or big boy pants and deal with it like an adult. Blowing off setting up the audit or blowing off the audit completely will not bode well for you and then you will be forced to have the audit at their convenience. If that happens they will be a lot less likely to work with you. They are rational people. They do understand about people’s schedules and time constraints. If you sincerely cannot make the first appointment that is suggested to you, it’s ok to say, “I’m not available that day, but I’m available the rest of the week.” Make a suggestion as to time frames that will work with your schedule. That will go over better than saying, “I’m not available,” and not addressing it any further.


Get Records in Order

Next step, get your records in order. Neatness counts! Regardless of what governing body may be auditing you, audits go more smoothly if your files are in order. Often times, there is a check list that has created of the files the entity expects you to have. An example is the EPA Renovator, there is a checklist at the end of module 7 in the manual. Follow the list. In an ideal world, all the paperwork will be in a folder for each case. We all know, the world is not ideal. DO NOT FABRICATE ANY MISSING PAPERWORK. Do try to find and / or complete any missing paperwork for you cases. DO NOT FABRICATE PEOPLE’S SIGNATURES OR FALSIFY LABORATORY RESULTS. This will create a whole new ugly situation which will lead to months if not years of investigation. Your work and your life will be under a microscope. Do try to find a rational explanation for why the paperwork is missing or not filled out completely.

Make sure that your certification(s) and the company’s certification(s) and license(s) are current.


Day of the Audit

The day of the audit, stay calm. I know it’s so much easier to say than do. One of my colleagues says, ‘Audits go easier with muffins & cookies.” There’s some truth to that. You don’t need to run out and buy muffins and cookies for the audit. However, maintaining composed during the audit, answering their questions, asking questions when you don’t understand what’s being asked of you is key. If your mindset is antagonistic from the get go, it makes the audit that much more stressful for everyone.

You may politely disagree with an auditor. For example, a few members of Lead Safe, LLC have their EPA lead supervisor certificates. The first time we were audited, in 2000, by the EPA, they asked to see a lead abatement report. My colleague told them, “We don’t do abatement.” They asked again. He repeated, “We don’t do abatement. We’re a consulting firm. We have lead supervisors for writing job specs.” (At the time it was acceptable to have a lead supervisor certificate for writing job specs.) That was sufficient to clear up the disagreement.


During the Audit

During the audit, answer the questions that are asked and supply the paperwork that is asked for – nothing more. It sounds simple enough. The idea is that you do not want to open yourself up to further scrutiny. Also, idle conversation or lengthy presentations only hinder the progress of the audit. It wastes everyone’s time and makes the audit drag on. Remain courteous and polite, it doesn’t have to be all yes or no answers, but they don’t want to hear endless stories about how something went hopelessly wrong on a case. This may open you up to further investigation as well. Be honest!

Believe it or not, those auditors aren’t there to give you a hard time. They don’t groove on finding mistakes. Oftentimes, it’s more paperwork for them if they do find mistakes. Take criticisms constructively. If they have information to give you to help you, take it. Again try to keep a pleasant demeanor.


Call Lead Safe, LLC.

Still nervous about being audited? You can call Lead Safe, LLC, Phone: 315-471-3210 or visit our website. Lead Safe, LLC provides a service were we can help you go over your files and what to expect in an audit.


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Holiday Season and Lead in Childrens Toys...

It’s been a few years now since we had the massive recalls of toys because of lead. I can remember, a few years back, walking around a big box store with a Dora the Explorer doll in my hands for a friend’s daughter. I saw the checkout lines and knew I’d be late for my next appointment if I waited in line to buy her. I put the doll back and went off to my job. Little did I know at that time that the doll would be recalled less than a week later. Her face was painted on with lead containing paint! I was never so relieved. Can you imagine an environmental consultant buying a toy for a child that had lead paint! It goes to show you that it can even happen to the experts.

I’m glad to say the US seems to have gotten a tighter rein on imports, especially on imported toys, but you should still be cautious. Holiday movies showing antique toys always look impressive, but it’s those antique toys that may contain lead based paint. That doesn’t mean you need to throw them out, but you may want to keep grandpa’s old toy fire engine on a shelf away from little hands for admiration instead of play.

Also, used toys or toys purchased at thrift shops can be a big problem. Make sure to check the CPSC’s website (Consumer Product Safety Commission, BEFORE purchasing toys at a thrift shop or second-hand store. Toys that were construed as being “too much of a hassle” to return may have very easily found their way to thrift stores. Often these stores do not allow you to return merchandise. The same goes for buying toys at garage sales or church bazaars.

If you’re not sure about some of the toys your child is playing with, there are some simple measures that can be taken as precautions. First, make sure your child washes his or her hands before eating. Secondly, if possible wash the toys in hot soapy water at regular intervals. Check the CPSC website to see if your child’s toy has been recalled. If a toy is recalled, remove it from your child’s environment immediately. If the recalled toy has been gnawed on or if you’ve seen your child mouthing the toy, have your child’s blood lead check. Also you can call a certified lead professional to test your child’s toys with an XRF (x-ray fluorescence – a non-destructive means of testing for lead based paint.) Keep in mind there is usually a fee for this service.

Some links to check out: – Center of disease control tips pertaining to toys with lead – Consumer Product Safety Commission recall list


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National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week 2010...

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is coming up next month, October 24-30, 2010. I didn’t know. It wasn’t obvious. In fact, you may consider it one of the government’s best kept secrets, although they shouldn’t be keeping it a secret at all. I had to specifically Google “National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, 2010” to find it. I think that this is a terrific idea. However, the concept falls short in their advertising. The EPA’s website has one paragraph regarding the Week and links to the CDC and HUD. The government expects you to download their poster and post it! The links to CDC and HUD don’t even mention the National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.

Considering the purpose of the Week is to “educate parents and children about the dangerous health effects of lead exposure,” the government is definitely missing its target audience. The thing is having a week to make people aware that lead poisoning is still an ongoing problem in the United States is a good idea. Approximately 250,000 children ages 1-5 have elevated blood lead levels in the United States today. Elevated blood lead levels can lead to stomach ache, poor appetite, and irritability which is often confused with other illnesses. Higher levels of lead exposure have been linked to ADHD. Very severe lead exposure (blood lead levels greater than 80 ug/dL) can cause neurological damage, convulsions, coma, and even death. The long-term effects of elevated blood lead levels in children often includes slow development, reduced IQ, learning disabilities, hearing loss, reduced height and hyperactivity. The effects of lead based paint exposure are permanent.

Simple measures can be taken to help prevent childhood lead poisoning. These include keeping the home clean, eating a good diet, and washing hands. Adults can check the home for potential danger areas, looking for flaking paint, crumbling plaster, indoor dust and outdoor dirt that may have lead in it. A lead inspection or lead based paint risk assessment can be performed by a certified professional to find out where lead and potential problems may be. Any peeling paint should be addressed and the paint chips cleaned with a wet disposable cloth (paper towel). Children should not be present when cleaning up paint chips. Dust should be kept to a minimum by damp mopping and using a wet cloth to clean walls, window sills, and other surfaces. Children’s toys should also be cleaned to eliminate the potential for lead dust to collect on the toys and then have the child put the toy in their mouth.

I wouldn’t be following due diligence if I didn’t give you a link to the EPA regarding the National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week! Here it is:

Please also check with your local county health department to see what they are doing for National Lead Poisoning Prevent Week.2010 National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week


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Gardening & Lead in Soil...

Spring has sprung in upstate New York. The daffodils are just finishing up and the tulips are just starting to put on their show. With the promise of warmer weather, people turn their sites towards gardening. In these economic hard times, more people are turning towards vegetable gardens. I often think of my garden as my sanctuary, a little place where I can be away from work and be in the great outdoors.

However, my work seems to follow me everywhere. Despite my garden being 150 feet away from the house and a good 50 feet away from the neighbor’s house, I still worry about the soil being contaminated with lead. Next door on the other side of my house is a long since abandoned

Home Grown Tomatoes

apple orchard. Lead arsenate was a common pesticide that apple orchards used up until WWII.

However, most people don’t live near or on old apple orchards. With the majority of the housing stock in the Northeast having been built before 1978, the concern is chipping and peeling lead paint getting into the soil causing contamination. Lead is harmful even in small doses. It readily takes the place of other minerals such as iron, magnesium and calcium in dark green leafy vegetables. So, vegetables grown in a lead contaminated soil can be harmful to eat.

Be wary of where you’re putting your garden. You’ll want to avoid putting a garden right next to the house or garage that’s chipping or peeling. Also, you won’t want to put the garden in an area where cars use to park or near busy roadways. Leaded gasoline may have leaked into the ground.

Get your soil tested for lead. It’s not an expensive test. Think of it as peace of mind. There are quite a few private companies that do lead testing. You may want to get some advice from your local health department or county cooperative extension. If the lead in soil exceeds 400 ppm (in New York State), you’ll want to rethink your gardening plot. Either move the area where you would like to garden or consider making lined raised beds.

A great article to read regarding the matter is:

Other helpful information:


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New RRP Rule – Press Release from EPA...

Press Release from EPA

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is marking National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week by announcing several actions the agency proposes to take to prevent lead poisoning. Lead poisoning may cause a variety of adverse health effects, including brain and nervous system disorders, high blood pressure, and hypertension. Children six years old and under are most at risk.

EPA has issued a proposed rule to expand the coverage of the 2008 Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule. The new rule proposes to eliminate a provision that exempted some housing from the rule’s requirement that contractors be trained and certified and use lead-safe work practices when renovating, repairing or painting a pre-1978 home.

“This proposed rule will further increase protections for children and their families from lead-based paint hazards associated with home renovation and repair, “ said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for the Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances. “The administration is demonstrating its continued commitment to eliminating childhood lead poisoning and strengthening lead poisoning-prevention efforts with the announcement of these actions during National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.’
The federal government banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978. However, if a home was built before 1978, it has a higher likelihood of containing lead-based paint. The 2008 rule requires contractors working in pre-1978 housing where children under six or pregnant women reside take the proper precautions to work lead-safe work, including minimizing the dust, containing the work area, and conducting a thorough cleanup to reduce the potential exposure associated with disturbing lead-based paint. This rule would expand such requirements to cover most pre-1978 homes.

EPA also announced that it will propose to modify the regulatory hazard standard for lead in dust so that it is based on the most recent science. The agency also will work with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to propose to modify the regulatory definition of lead-based paint. The National Center for Healthy Housing and several other citizens groups had petitioned the agency on these issues, making the point that current standards are outdated.

EPA will take comment on the proposal for 30 days and expects to finalize the rule by April 2010.

More information:

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Misconceptions Regarding Lead Paint Hazards...

I’ve been in the environmental industry for 15 years now. I took my first class regarding lead based paint in 1995. Despite this, I can’t convince my mother and my sister that it’s not just children that get lead poisoned and lead poisoning can occur in other ways than eating paint chips. My mom and my sister are rather intelligent people. My mom has a bachelor’s degree in history and my sister has a PhD in biophysics. However, it goes to show how strong the stereotypes and misconceptions are regarding lead.

The first misconception is that “only children get lead poisoned.” This is absolutely false. The one main difference between a child or an adult getting lead poisoned is the amount of lead it takes. Children are considered to have elevated blood leads if their blood lead levels are 5 ug/dl. For adults the amount is 40 ug/dl. Lead is the most dangerous in children under the age of 7 years because their brains are still developing. Lead poisoning in small children can cause permanent brain damage. In many other ways lead affects adults the same way it does children.

The second misconception is that “you can only get lead poisoned by eating paint chips.” This is absolutely false. Unless a child or adult has pica, a condition in which someone eats non-food items, children are usually exposed by “second hand” contact. For example, a cat sits in a window well that has paint chips and dust in it and regularly sleeps with the child; a window is left open and blows the paint chips and dust onto children’s toys or clothes; children play with their toys near a door where paint chips and dust have accumulated. The dust gets on their toys which then gets on the child’s hands. With adults, exposure is usually through hobbies or occupation.

The last misconception is that “lead only occurs in paint.” The term “lead based paint” is somewhat of a misnomer. Lead can occur in any coating including primers, varnish, stains, shellacs, etc. I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked on a job site, “Why are you testing that? It’s not painted,” while I was testing something stained. Indeed, I’ve found lead in primers, varnish, stains and shellac.

Get your home tested for lead today!

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How to Become an EPA Certified Renovator...

There are two ways to become a certified Renovator (Renovation, Remodeling and Painting or EPA RRP
Lead Safe LLC, is accredited to provide this course as well as the Renovator Refresher course. Upon successful completion of the course, students are issued their EPA certificate that is valid for 5 years. To maintain certification, a student must take a refresher course PRIOR to their expiration date or they must take the 8-hour initial course.

The other way a person could get certified is by taking a refresher based on being “grandfathered” in to the system because they have successfully completed training in EPA approved courses. The refresher course is shorter (4 hours) than the initial course but the student is required to provide proof of eligibility prior to enrolling in this course. A copy of the successful completion certificate from the eligible course is required

Eligibility Requirements for Refresher Training.

Individuals who successfully completed one of the following training courses before October 4, 2011, may choose to take the EPA four-hour renovation refresher course in lieu of the initial renovator training course to become a certified renovator.

* Abatement worker or supervisor course accredited by EPA, or an EPA authorized State or Tribal program
* Joint EPA-HUD Lead Safety for Remodeling, Repair and Painting, 2003 (EPA 747-B-03-001).
* EPA Model Training Course Minimizing Lead-Based Paint Hazards During Renovation, Remodeling, and Painting, 2000 (EPA 747-B-00-005).
* HUD Addressing Lead-Based Paint Hazards During Renovation, Remodeling and Rehabilitation in Federally Owned and Assisted Housing Course.
* HUD Lead-Based Paint Training for Remodelers and Renovators Course.
* State of Connecticut Lead-Safe Work Practices for Painting, Remodeling, and Maintenance Course.
* State of Maine Lead-Smart Renovation (a.k.a. Lead-Safe Renovator) Course.
* Commonwealth of Massachusetts Lead-Safe Renovator Worker and Supervisor Course.
* State of Wisconsin Lead Low-Risk Worker Course.
* Craven County, NC, Lead-Safe Work Practices Course.
* Baker Lead-Safe Work Practices Training.
* Connor Interim Controls/Lead-Safe Work Practices and Awareness Manual.
* NESHTA Lead-Based Paint Maintenance Training: Work Smart, Work Wet, Work Clean to Work Lead-Safe.
* Occupational Knowledge Interim Controls/Lead-Safe Work Practices and Awareness Training.

To schedule a class visit the Lead Safe LLC website. For more information on EPA lead training requirements visit EPA.

What’s the Difference Between a Lead Inspect...

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Lead Poisoning and Autism...

I arrived on the job site today to perform a lead based paint risk assessment for a client. The owner opened the door to her home as I came up the front stairs. The owner, a mother of two, stood there nervously as I got my equipment ready and went into my talk about what I was going to do while there. She told me that the whole house was full of lead. She stood there on edge as she told me her child had been lead poisoned as a toddler and was autistic because of the lead poisoning. 859052_43065526

I hadn’t run into this particular scenario before. The owner went through the house with me as I tested, and I told her what I found to be positive for lead as I tested. I think that my being there stirred up a lot of terrible memories of when she first found out her child was lead poisoned. I consistently found lead on some building components. This did not ease the owner‘s nerves, but she also wanted to know.

As I tested throughout the house, I kept thinking about the connection between lead poisoning and autism. I thought it was a viable possibility but hadn’t come across it before. Lead affects the nervous system. In children lead is particularly dangerous since their brain and nervous systems are still developing. It can permanently affect cognitive, communication and social functions.

So I finished my risk assessment. I tried to ease the owner’s mind by telling her that there is a reason for concern but not to be a nervous wreck and worry. I also told her that usually 90% of the battle with lead paint, in particular lead dust and lead paint chips, is to keep a clean house, which she did. Also, she had sealed and plasticized over most of the windows in the house which would greatly reduce the development of paint chips and dust (from opening and closing windows,) and the spread of such from breezes blowing into the house.oldwindow4

When I got home from work, I continued to think about the case. I did some research and started looking up articles about lead poisoning and autism. Lead poisoning can be a cause of autism or autistic symptoms. Lead poisoning can impair the development of both nonverbal and verbal communication. Lead can also exacerbate preexisting symptoms of autism. Lead exposure is particularly dangerous for children ages 3 and under, when autism is most likely to occur.

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for lead poisoning or autism. The health effects are far-reaching, lasting a life time. At this point in time more research is necessary to better understand autism and the effects of neurotoxins, such as lead.

1. “Autism and Autistic Symptoms Associated with Childhood Lead Poisoning,” by Theodore Lidsky, PhD, Jay Schneider, PhD,
2. “Autism and Our Passion for Simple Causes and Quick Fixes,” by Dan Agin, The Huffington Post, June 18, 2007, passion fo-b-52651.html
3. “Facing Autism in New Brunswick,” October 13, 2007,

Lead Clearance Examination – Capstone of Lea...

The ultimate goal of any lead abatement project is the permanent elimination of all lead hazards. The final evaluation of the lead abatement project is a clearance examination. Most people think only of deteriorated paint when they hear someone talking about lead abatement. While paint that is in poor condition can certainly be an issue, it is well documented that the lead contaminated dust is the most common cause for childhood lead poisoning.

Lead contaminated dust result from:

  • Lead paint that is deteriorated
  • Lead paint that is subjected to impact
  • Lead paint that is subjected to friction
  • Improper renovation or remodeling activities
  • Tracking from bare lead contaminated soil
  • Improper or incomplete post lead hazard control/abatement clean up

An experienced and certified risk assessor can identify those areas where lead paint is being subjected to friction and impact. They will also identify any lead painted components that exhibit signs that a child may be chewing on them. The results of the paint assays, dust wipe and soil samples (if required) can be found in the risk assessment report along with the risk assessor’s recommendations for treating all the identified lead hazards that were found. These recommendations should be the starting point for developing lead abatement project specifications.

Lead abatement in target housing is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In section 402 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) EPA defines target housing thusly:

“…any housing constructed prior to 1978, except housing for the elderly or persons with disabilities (unless any one or more children age 6 years or under resides or is expected to reside in such housing for the elderly or persons with disabilities) or any 0-bedroom dwelling.”

The rule requires all persons working on these type of projects be trained by an accredited training provider and be EPA certified. Additionally these individuals must work for an EPA certified firm.

This can be achieved by utilizing any of four EPA approved methods or a combination of them. Prior to re-occupancy the completed project must have a clearance examination performed be an EPA certified inspector or risk assessor. The approved methods include:

  • Removal of lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust
  • Replacement of lead-painted surfaces or fixtures and removal or covering of lead-contaminated soil
  • Permanent Enclosure of lead-based paint*
  • Permanent Encapsulation of lead-based paint *

* Use of these methods requires enclosures and encapsulants. HUD has specific testing requirements for encapsulants (See Chapter 13 of the HUD Guidelines)

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