No business wants to face a pollution loss, but the exposures are real and claims happen.

One of the easiest ways to give one’s home a fresh new look is by repainting one’s home. However, with repainting and home decorating, painting contractors face a number of environmental risks, such as lead-based paint. According to USA Today, Fixer Upper stars Chip and Joanna Gains were found by the EPA to be in violation of multiple regulations regarding lead-based paint exposure, and forced to pay $40,000 for civil penalty and $160,000 to remediate lead-based paint hazards in buildings.

Environmental Risk Professionals aims to help you navigate and mitigate these various risks you may face as a painting contractor.

Consider this environmental example:

A painting contractor sealed off an area of a house with plastic sheeting to remove some textured paint and repaint. The homeowners continued to occupy the rest of the house during the work. At the time, one of the occupants was pregnant, and when the baby was born, it had an elevated blood lead level. It turns out that lead-based paint had been disturbed by the contractor and not adequately contained. The family sued the contractor for bodily injury and potential lost future wages for the child, based on decreased IQ from exposure to lead. Other painting contractors may deal with similar situations if not properly trained on how to spot potential environmental risks in their industry.

You can download CERC’s tips for Painting Contractors by clicking on the button below, or continue reading by scrolling down the page.

01. Chemical Compounds

Thousands of chemical compounds are used in paint products such  as pigments, extenders, binders, solvents and additives. Surface  preparation products, rust converters and paint and rust removers  also contain toxic solvents and corrosive chemicals. Asbestos was  used as a filler in interior and exterior paints and textured surfacing materials until the early 1980s. The main organic solvents used in paints are toluene, xylene, aliphatic compounds, ketones,  alcohols, esters and glycol ethers. Chemicals in paint can be toxic  to humans and aquatic systems.

02. Paint Exposure

Exposure to paint may irritate or burn the eyes, nose, throat and  skin and cause reactions such as headaches, dizziness or nausea.  Substances found in some oil-based paint, such  as formaldehyde and benzene, are carcinogenic while others, such  as heavy metals and phthalates, are human and ecosystem toxins.

03. Emissions

Painting and surface preparation can create hazardous air emissions and release fumes that can cause third party bodily injury  liability. Hazardous components from paint materials can include  metals such as lead and chromium and solvents and VOCS. The  most important environmental impact from paints is the release  of VOCs during the drying process after the coating is applied. Volatile chemicals off-gassing indoors can become entrained in the HVAC system and impact occupants throughout a building. Use of  aerosol and spray paints can also lead to third-party liability exposure from overspray or spray drift.

04. Spills

Accidental spills and leaks of materials such as paints, sealants,  solvents and lacquers at the location of storage, at a job site, or during transportation or loading and unloading could contaminate  soil and groundwater or runoff into storm water systems. This  can lead to third-party liability and cleanup liability. Wastewater  from equipment washing can also lead to a release or spill if not  properly contained or handled.

05. Surface Blasting

Sanding, needle gunning or abrasive blasting of surfaces can create harmful dusts or dislodge pollutant particles into the air.  Surface preparation may disturb existing lead-based paint or asbestos-containing material and result in the release of inhalable particulates or fibers. Failure to perform proper assessment of the  materials or contain the area could expose third parties to hazardous air emissions.

06. Wastewater

Paint removal done by water blasting to residential, commercial  or industrial structures requires proper containment systems to capture the resulting wastewater. Wastewater that is improperly  contained has the potential to contaminate soil, groundwater and  surface water. Paint chips and other solid debris should be separated from the wastewater, collected and properly managed.

07. Lead-Based Paint

Housing built before 1978 may have lead-based paint (LBP) under more recent layers of applied paint. This paint may be dislodged,  and lead particulates may be released into the surrounding environment during removal, repair or cleaning of painted building  materials. Even accidental releases may occur during targeted  abatement. Although LBP has been discontinued for general consumer use, lead-, and chromium-based paints continue to be available for use for outdoor structures, such as  bridges and water towers, and at industrial sites. Additional pollution risks and exposures may be present at these work sites  and failure to adhere to protocols for heavy metal particulate containment, waste handling and disposal can increase risk exposure. 

08. Improper Disposal

Improper disposal of wastes can lead to off-site soil and groundwater contamination and environmental tort liability. Materials  such as discarded paint products, non-empty aerosol cans, solvent  soaked rags and wastewater from equipment washing or water  blasting can be classified as hazardous waste and require special  disposal procedures. Job site waste can also be considered hazardous if it contains asbestos or lead based paint. Businesses are  required to determine whether the waste they generate is hazardous. Unlabeled or mislabeled containers can contribute to improper handling and disposal.


Painters deal with a number of paints, enamels, and chemical strippers that can pose great harm to both people and the environment. Taking steps to become a Certified Environmentally Responsible Contractor (CERC) will not only put your future clients at ease, it will help train your employees to mitigate environmental risks and may help your business reduce or avoid potential litigation and lawsuits.

CERC showcases contractors by helping them stand out from lesser-qualified competition and win more bids. Contractors become CERC certified by establishing an environmental risk management training plan and securing true pollution coverage. Insurance requirements include a one (1) million dollar limit; first and third-party transportation coverage; non-owned disposal sites (NODS) coverage; mold coverage; natural resource damage coverage; and no sudden and accidental pollution release coverage limitation.

About CERC

Certified Environmentally Responsible Contractors (CERC) is a certification program that aims to promote environmentally responsible contractors by helping them stand out from lesser-qualified competition and win more bids. Contractors can become certified when managing their environmental risks by securing broadened pollution insurance and by appropriately training their employees. Training may include OSHA required training, industry-wide standard practices and/or Pollution Prevention Practices provided by Environmental Risk Professionals.