- Q.I do a lot of renovation
work in old homes, and the work includes a lot of
demolition. I am very concerned about health hazards
from lead-based paint and asbestos. I make it a
practice of wearing the best respirator I can find.
Unfortunately, every type of eye goggles I have tried
fogs up when used with a respirator, to the point where
I can’t see what I’m doing. Once the
goggles fog up, I end up taking them off. My question
is, can you get lead or asbestos poisoning through your
Children’s Environmental Health Chief at
the Vermont Dept. of Health, responds:
Inorganic lead, the kind found in old paint, is not
absorbed through the skin or mucous membranes.
Asbestos exposure occurs through inhalation. While
wearing proper eye protection is a good idea to
prevent injury to the eyes, it will not have any
effect on reducing potential lead or asbestos
When performing renovation work in older homes,
the risk of exposure to lead is high. Many homes
built before 1978, and almost all homes built
before 1940, contain lead paint. When this paint is
disturbed during renovation projects, lead dust can
be created and inhaled by workers. This
lead-contaminated dust can also be ingested later
by young children if the work area is not
thoroughly cleaned after the work is complete. It
is critical that safe work practices and proper
equipment be used while working, and that a
thorough cleanup be performed afterward to reduce
the likelihood of lead exposure.
If the work is performed by a company with
employees (rather than by a sole proprietor), the
OSHA Lead in Construction standard
applies. Contact your local OSHA office for more
information on this standard.
When handling materials with friable asbestos,
proper respiratory protection is essential.
Asbestos fibers that are inhaled into the lungs can
increase the risk of certain types of lung