The 3-minute interview with Bill Oesterle

The CEO of Angie’s List, an online venue for consumer ratings of contractors, became an activist around the issue of lead poisoning after his then-infant daughter Emma Oesterle was poisoned by lead paint during the renovation of the family’s Indianapolis home in 1999. Angie’s List will host a lead safety event Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 435 Water St. in Jack London Square, Oakland.

What happened to your daughter? We had moved back into a neighborhood we’d previously lived in, and all those houses were built in the 1920s. That was the third house of that vintage we’d lived in, and we’d rehabbed all three, so we were aware [of lead safety issues] … in both the previous cases, the levels of lead in the paint were relatively low. This house … we didn’t have the paint tested, because we knew [the lead] was there. Four or five months later, I read an article about lead poisoning, so we took her back to the pediatrician, and the pediatrician called back in a panic, and said, “She’s got lead poisoning.”

What are the top things people need to know about remodeling? Any house built before 1975 has lead in it. … It’s probably in two places: the paint and the pipes. If you’ve got infants and are conducting a project, you need to know what you’re dealing with. Or a pregnant woman, that is another particular issue. And you need to use lead-safe practices, or use a contractor who uses lead-safe practices.

Does this affect renters? Only if you’re repainting and there’s a lot of sanding going on. Or, people will use heat guns or torches to remove the paint. That’s as bad as it gets. It vaporizes the lead and people breathe it in.


Check out more 3-minute interviews from our San Francisco newsroom.

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