Why You Still Need to Get the Lead Out

Notre dame paris fire bloomberg

On April 15, 2019, the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris caught fire. This blaze was notable as the roof’s layers and spire, made up of about 450 tons of lead, quickly melted in the over 1,400°F fire. The lead vaporized and created a toxic fallout of lead dust that was deposited across Paris.

For centuries, lead was a common building material. But no more, right? For many of us who do fire mitigation and restoration, we’re aware that lead is still found in many Colorado building products and household items, even in those structures built after 1978 (when lead paint was banned).

In our article, “The Very Real Dangers of Smoke and Soot”, we discussed the types of toxic materials found in soot and thus the need for firemen and restoration professionals to wear complete personal protection equipment (PPE) when mitigating fires. But lead is sometimes overlooked. Yet at temperatures above 932°F, lead materials vaporize and the lead-laden smoke and other byproducts combine to form toxic particles that penetrate surfaces in the form of ultra-fine lead dust.

Molten lead or lead fumes also contain other toxic byproducts including chromium, cobalt, arsenic, cadmium, antimony, and mercury. Although OSHA has set a permissible exposure limit for lead, numerous authorities such as the World Health Organization ( WHO) state that there's no known level of lead exposure that's safe.

Some fire restoration contractors rarely test for lead in fire-damaged buildings built after 1978 because it’s not required. But the reality is that most buildings, even those constructed today, contain a level of lead in the building materials or contents that may pose serious health risks or even death to those exposed.

A list of building products that may contain lead include:

  • Ceramic tile glaze
  • Porcelain glaze in bathrooms
  • Stained glass windows
  • Pipe solder
  • PVC
  • Solar cells.

Household items that may contain lead include:

  • Weights
  • Fishing lures
  • Ammo
  • Car batteries
  • Electronics
  • Jewelry
  • Antiques
  • Artificial Christmas trees

Because of the dangers from lead, here’s how Cyclone Kleen Up protects you and our crew:

  1. We treat each fire as though it has the potential of being contaminated by lead and have it tested ASAP by a certified environmental testing company.
  2. All techs on a fire damage job always wear proper PPE until the area is proven to be lead and toxins-free.
  3. We know that clothes, bedding, soft goods, and toys should not be cleaned if they’ve come in contact with lead dust or other toxic heavy metals. They should be treated as contaminated and properly disposed of. Children often chew on their toys, clothes, blankets, and put things in their mouths. This is how lead can be ingested and is the main cause of lead poisoning in children.

Every fire is unique and the materials that have burned are often unknown, so if you experience a fire near Pueblo, Leadville, or nearby cities in Colorado, call restoration professionals at Cyclone Kleen Up. Also, help protect yourself and others by first having a trusted, outside organization like eTestNetwork test for dangerous substances such as lead, mold, and asbestos.