Abatement vs. Mitigation

Abatement

* Means: To completely get rid of the lead. Until a decade ago, it was thought the best way to deal with lead hazards.

* How it works: Much like asbestos. It required certified lead-removal technicians, masked and in full body suits, to do near-gut-rehabs of homes, stripping walls, replacing windows and sometimes even pipes.

* Advantage: The lead was gone—completely.

* Disadvantage: It cost property owners tens of thousands of dollars and government officials, including those in Chicago, decided it was cost-prohibitive.

* Gradually over the last decade, the city and state changed from an abatement to a mitigation policy.

Mitigation

* Means: To do the work necessary to contain lead hazards. Now the standard practice.

* How it works: For example, a floorboard with lead paint on it would be replaced under abatement. But with mitigation, repairs would be made to holes or areas with chipping. Instead of replacing a window, mitigation would mean painting over the old paint in the proper manner.

* Advantage: A dramatic improvement in the compliance of property owners with city violations. It cost as little as $2,000 or as much as $40,000, but averages $10,000 per home. Also, the city and state no longer require certified lead contractors be hired to do minor jobs. Property owners can do it themselves by taking weekly classes offered by the city on safe lead work techniques.

* Disadvantage: Advocates

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