A lead inspector's primary responsibility is to conduct testing to ascertain whether there is a presence of lead-based paint hazards in a house, dwelling unit, residential building, or housing development. Inspectors not only perform exterior and interior surface-by-surface analysis of painted components, but also test surfaces that are finished with other coatings, such as stain, varnish, or wallpaper-coated surfaces. Many inspectors may also test lead, dust, bare soil and water. Inspectors must follow an inspection protocol based on guidelines established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Generally, there are three instances in which a lead inspector is called upon to conduct lead-based paint testing. First, they are required to perform an evaluation to identify the presence of lead-based paint hazards in residential properties built before 1978. Tests are usually performed on internal as well as external surfaces. Components that are tested may include walls, floors, and doors. Windows and ceilings are also subjected to analysis. When a lead inspector visually inspects a surface that is intact or determined to be in fair condition, testing is often performed on horizontal surfaces in adjacent areas to check for lead dust.
Lead inspectors utilize equipment called an X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer to evaluate a surface for the presence of lead-based paint. Upon completion of the test, the lead inspector must submit a report to the property owner or the agency requesting the evaluation. If the property fails the inspection, and a lead–based paint hazard is determined to exist, the problem must be corected within a certain period of time. Typically, very specific HUD mandated procedures must be followed to remove the hazard. The process of removing or eliminating a lead-based paint hazard is called abatement.
Abatement may include removal, encapsulation, or enclosure of the identified lead-based paint hazard; in some cases, the surface may be sanded and repainted. After a licensed lead abatement contractor completes the work, a lead inspector is called out to conduct a clearance sampling. The lead inspector will generally take clearance samplings in locations of the work area specified in the lead-based paint regulations to determine if the abatement process was completed in accordance with federal regulations. This includes the appropriate cleanup of the abatement work area.
In 1998, HUD began requiring clearance testing to be performed after remodeling, repairing, or painting of any housing that receives federal funding. Starting in April 2010, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US-EPA) will require contractors to proved that they followed prescribed regulations to appropriately clean certain impacted areas identified as lead-base paint hazards in any child-occupied facilities or housing built before 1978. In both cases, the clearance must be conducted by a lead inspector or other authorized person.
Many property owners have their properties inspected after they perform remodeling or repair work. This is to ensure that adequate cleanup was performed and a lead-based paint hazard does not exist. Many rental property owners have inspections before leasing a rental unit to document the non-existence of lead-based paint hazards.
The requirements for becoming a licensed and certified lead inspector depend on the state where the testing is performed. Generally, lead inspectors must have at least a high school diploma, or the equivalent. They are required to complete an accredited training program where they will learn the basic knowledge and skills necessary to become a lead inspector.