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Question DetailsAsked on 5/26/2015

Is there a risk to lead exposure when replacing a roof and skylight?

I am thinking about replacing my roof and also an old skylight. I hear there is lead in roofing materials. How much of a lead exposure will me and my children (one is an 18 month old) be subjected to if I were to replace the skylight also.


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Put your mind at rest - unless you intend to take your 18 month old up on the roof and let it lick everything, I think you have no issue.

First, unless quite an old roof or slate shingles, the probability of significant amounts of lead is low - since about the 40's/50's most flashing has been zinc galvanized metal which has trace amounts of lead in it, but is not heavily leaded like the old lead flashing.

Also, lead is a significant hazard only if ingested (typically infants chewing window sills or furnishings with lead paint) or absorbed in quantity in mucous membranes like eyes and nose, so simple precautions like not licking your fingaers or eating while working, using a dust mask while doing dusty removal (like stripping shingles) and washing your work clothes separately so they are not with the baby's things would be rational precautions.

When doing the roofing removal, I would wash down the area where the roofing debris are tossed during tearoff to remove any zinc or lead dust that might come off, and keep the windows on that side of the house closed during the work just ot limit dust exposure, because there is commonly zinc in the granules and the roof may have been coated with a zinc-based powder for moss control - not the greatest thing to breathe in, though obviously not a significant hazard either since it is used in diaper ointment and sunblockers (the white zinc oxide put on faces by lifeguards and surfers and such), so you really need not be significantly concerned - just limit dust exposure as reasonable.

Even if the flashing on the skylight is lead, just strip it off and bag it or leave attached to the skyliht being disposed of - no special care needed. The hazard with lead is either kids directly chewing on lead painted items, or doing things like sanding lead containing materials and creating lead dust which is then inhaled,, not handling solid metallic lead like flashing, for which there is not even a safety warning to use gloves while handling it.

Personally, with a tot, my biggest concern would be duct taping the skylight glass well before removal (if glass rather than acrylic) to limit possibility of breakage in disposal and getting glass in the yard where the tot could get into it, can getting (about $15) a drag-around or rake handled magnet to run around the perimeter of the house afterwards to get the stray nails that will come off in tearoff.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

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