The use of lead as an additive to paint products dates back to antiquity. White lead had a reputation for being the best white pigment and it was added to pigmented oil paints to speed up drying time. Paint with lead is toxic when ingested or when its fumes are inhaled. Because of this, those most at risk for lead poising were children, prone to eating peeling paint, and painters.

Although it’s toxicity has been well-known since antiquity, use of lead in paint was outlawed only in 1948! Today, most older apartments test positive for lead but this layer is covered over by many successive layers of paint making it « inaccessible » and thus harmless. Yet legislation dictates that during renovation projects, zones containing lead must be sectioned off and the layer of paint containing lead must be sanded off. This is the case even when the project entails the removal of walls and partitions.

The Fondation des États-Unis underwent a thorough inspection for the presence of lead. Hundreds of measurements were taken. Lead was found in the East Wing but not in the Central Wing, thus the paint must have been different! Consequently, the first step on the renovation’s construction site was the removal of lead. It is a meticulous process that is regulated by legislation. The zones under construction are carefully sealed to prevent dust from drifting and workers are fitted from head to foot for total protection. The dust that results from the sanding process is put into bags and labeled to ensure that its treatment will be properly carried out by a company specialized in this process. After being sanded down to expose the bare, and now completely clean, walls beneath… the demolition begins!

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