The Home Depot’s lead paint removal business is currently the subject of a federal criminal investigation, with homeowners around the country complaining that high-priced contractors hired through the retailer used unsafe practices that endangered lives.
WSB-TV in Home Depot’s hometown of Atlanta (warning: auto-play video at that link) paid visits to homeowners to check out their stories of allegedly terrible lead abatement. These customers say they were charged extra for what was supposed to be a specialized service, but claim that the workers didn’t do anything to minimize the dangers.
Homeowners who had hired contractors to do work on their homes report that they were charged extra, yet didn’t see the workers do anything special.
Paint-removal services are supposed to prevent lead paint from getting on anything in the house, which includes emptying a room of furniture before performing work on lead-contaminated walls or windows.
A couple in Maine told WSB their experience was the opposite, with workers even leaving the crib for their soon-to-arrive baby in the room while replacing windows.
“[My husband] had gone upstairs to see if they were putting plastic down and if they were wearing masks and, you know what, they weren’t,” one Maine homeowner told the TV station. For this, the couple was being charged extra.
She says that despite her pregnancy and the presence of their preschool-aged child, the workers routinely left it up to her to clean up after them. Lead paint is particularly dangerous to developing fetuses and young children.
The family ultimately received a confidential settlement from Home Depot, and the retailer was fined by safety regulators for the incident.
However, WSB notes other incidents around the country, like the Connecticut homeowner who paid $24,000 to have lead paint removed from his siding, but whose house still appears to contain chips of the toxic paint two years later. Or the $37,000 fine against Home Depot in Colorado, for not following safety guidelines while removing lead paint in a home where seven children lived.
Home Depot recently revealed in a financial filing that the Environmental Protection Agency has opened a criminal investigation into the retailer’s lead paint removal business.
Speaking to WSB in March, Home Depot confirmed the investigation but downplayed the size of its paint-removal operation, saying it only accounts for around 4% of the company’s business.