When do you need a mandatory inspection?
Throughout France, an inspection for the presence of lead in paintwork is mandatory when any building built before January 1949 is sold (both common areas and/or areas for private use).
The inspection must be carried out by a qualified building engineer using a portable x-ray fluorescence apparatus (see photo). When the inspection is complete, the engineer will draw up a report with respect to the risk of exposure to lead (called a “Constat des risques d’exposition au plomb”, or CREP in French).
Where is lead found?
Most buildings built before 1949 have lead in their paintwork, even if the owners have repainted throughout. The older layers of paint are rarely stripped and even if they are, there are often traces of lead in the plasterwork.
Levels of lead in paintwork can often be quite considerable. The legal limit is 1mg per sqcm, but it is not rare to find levels of up to 20 mg per sqcm. If the coating containing the lead is in a poor state of repair (cracks, fissures, deterioration, wear, flaking), the lead is accessible, and work to cover or to remove it must be undertaken to avoid any risk of lead poisoning.
When should you fear lead poisoning?
The risk of lead poisoning mainly concerns two categories of people:
- small children who may ingest it.
- construction workers who may inhale paint dust containing lead during repair work.
Simple measures for maintenance of wall/floor coverings will limit the risk of children coming into contact with lead. Paint blistering, in particular, should be avoided. If the area is damp, the paint should be covered up so that it is out of reach.
When work is carried out on coatings and coverings, building workers should be informed (in writing) of the risks involved so that they can take the necessary precautions (wearing masks, suction of dust, etc.).
A Ministerial Order dated April 25 2006 further reinforces the control of risks of lead poisoning and, from August 2008, this obligation was extended to all new rental agreements.
Legislation covering lead
The Anti-exclusion Act 98-657 dated July 29 1998, Article 123 modifying the Code of Public Health.
* Ministerial Order n°2006-474 dated April 25 2006 concerning the control of risks of lead poisoning, modifying Articles R1334-1 to R1334- 13 of the Code of Public Health (regulatory rules).
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