GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Kristie Simon isn’t raising toddlers at her home on Norwood Avenue SE in Grand Rapids, but she still didn’t appreciate the paint chips she found littering her driveway.
“A neighbor has a painting crew that has been creating lead paint shrapnel falling on our property for about a week now,” wrote Simon in an email to Target 8 investigators.
When we checked out Simon’s complaint, we brought along Paul Haan of Healthy Homes Coalition.
Haan used a lead check swab to test some of the paint remnants for lead.
“If it turns red, we have got lead-based paint on the surface,” explained Haan. “This one’s turning really red. This paint has high lead content.”
That means the chips — and the dust they produce — could cause brain damage if ingested by children.
“When they first started painting about a week ago we asked them day one, ‘are you going to clean this up, are you going to sweep tonight?’” recalled Simon.
“They were like, ‘don’t worry about it, don’t worry about it, we’ll take care of it.’”
But the chips never should have made it to the ground anyway.
Since 2010, federal law has required painters to use plastic sheeting to cover and contain lead-based paint while they scrape.
Target 8 first exposed the problem of painters ignoring lead safety rules last February.
Haan of Healthy Homes Coalition says unsafe painting and home renovations are a big reason kids are still at risk for lead poisoning in West Michigan.
>>PDF: Lead poisoning rates in Grand Rapids
“There’s been an increase of kids lead poisoned in Grand Rapids this last year, and the 49507 zip code is one of the areas that’s most heavily impacted,” said Haan.
Kristie Simon’s house is just a few blocks outside the 49507 zip code.
Simon’s husband snapped a picture of the logo on the paint crew’s truck.
It read Acevedo Preservation and Property Management.
Target 8 reached Robert Acevedo, Jr., the owner of the GR-based company, on the phone.
He said his small business doesn’t usually take paint jobs.
In fact, this is a first for them.
“We’re not painters so I didn’t know any of these rules and regulations,” explained Acevedo. “We’re just helping out a friend that needed her home painted.”
The day after Target 8 investigators contacted Acevedo, there were crews back out at the Norwood house sweeping up the chips and dust.
Acevedo is far from the only offender.
Just a few blocks away, Target 8 came across a couple guys painting a home at Sherman Street SE and Giddings Avenue SE.
They didn’t know if the paint they were scraping had lead in it or not.
One of the men acknowledged that they should have been containing the paint chips, but stopped answering questions when we asked why they weren’t following federal law.
If you think you spot painters or remodelers mishandling lead-based paint, you can file a complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency.
In 2015, the EPA took action against 75 painting companies across the country for violating the Repair, Renovation and Painting law.
Homeowners who paint their homes themselves are not required to follow lead-safe practices.
But the EPA encourages you to do so anyway and posted a video on its website showing homeowners how to work safely while scraping lead-based paint.