DIY craze that carries lethal risk

Fashion for stripping wood can release deadly lead fumes, reports Ian Burrell

THE growing fashion for stripped wood could bring about a major increase in cases of lead poisoning. Leaded paint, which has been undisturbed for decades, is being removed with heat guns and sanders, unleashing potentially lethal fumes.

Joan Rider, a fitness instructor, found this to her cost when she chose a stripped-wood finish for her newly bought five-bedroom home and nearly died as a result.

The task of burning and blasting the paintwork from the door frames and skirting boards of the Victorian property almost destroyed her both physically and mentally.

She lost her sense of balance and had to stop working because of chronic tiredness and dizziness.

Her condition baffled doctors until tests showed she had nearly 800 milligrams of lead per litre of blood, eight times the safe limit and leaving her at risk of fatal brain damage. She had been poisoned by inhaling thousands of particles of lead from the dust of pre-war paint. "It's an insidious way of being poisoned," she said. "As long as you have the lead in your body your condition is going to get worse."

Until the 1960s, paint contained up to 50 per cent lead by weight. But when the paint is burned off by temperatures in excess of 450C, the lead vaporises.

Richard Meeran of the London solicitors Leigh Day, said that the Government, the DIY industry and doctors were all culpable for failing to warn the public of the dangers. "This has been known about for a long time. They have all been slow to issue warnings to the public and they still have not done it effectively."

A new Lead Awareness Group, comprising leading doctors, toxicologists, lawyers and environmentalists, has been set up to warn the public of the risks of lead paint.

Mr Meeran is particularly angry that some DIY companies have been warning American consumers of the dangers of lead paint since 1983 but failing to do the same in this country.

There are also particular dangers to children who develop a craving for lead paint on doors or window sills because it tastes so sweet.

Mr Meeran is dealing with two cases where babies have been severely brain damaged by chewing on lead paint.

Meanwhile Mrs Rider, 55, from Broadstairs in Kent, is having therapy which involves taking 18 tablets a day to draw the lead from her body tissue.

She is now considering legal action against the makers of the sandblaster and heat gun equipment. "You become physically weak and that affects you emotionally," she said. "You cannot do things you would normally be able to do. It destroys your life."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent