EPA Proposes New Requirements For Lead-Based Paint Work
In an effort to reduce lead poisonings in children across the country, EPA announced on Dec. 29, 2005, it is proposing new requirements for contractors and construction professionals when working in homes that contain lead-based paint.
"(W)e are addressing one of the greatest environmental challenges facing our most vulnerable residents: childhood lead poisoning,'' said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "(This) action brings us one step closer to ensuring that our nation's children are safe and healthy.''
Lead is a highly toxic metal that was used for many years in paint. Lead can cause a range of health effects, from cognitive impairment and learning disabilities, to seizures and death. Children under six years are most at risk because their developing nervous systems are especially vulnerable to lead's effects and because of their more frequent hand-to-mouth behavior.
Preventing the creation of new lead-based paint hazards from renovation activities in housing where children under six reside is one purpose of this proposed regulation. EPA's analysis indicates that renovation, repair and painting projects in housing that is likely to contain lead-based paint affects more than 1.1 million children under age six annually. In the absence of this regulation, lead-safe practices are not likely to be employed to perform the renovation projects.
EPA is proposing that contractors must be trained in the use of lead-safe work practices, renovators and firms be certified, providers of renovation training be accredited, and renovators follow protective work practice standards. These work practices include posting warning signs, restricting occupants from work areas, arranging work areas to prevent dust and debris from spreading, conducting a thorough cleanup and verifying that cleanup was effective.
The rules would apply to all people who do renovation for compensation, including renovation contractors, maintenance workers in multi-family housing, painters and other specialty trades. The new requirements would apply to most renovation, repair or painting activities where more than two square feet of lead-based paint is disturbed.
EPA is proposing a two-phased approach. The first phase would apply to renovations in rental and owner-occupied housing built before 1978 where a child with an elevated blood lead level resides, in rental housing built before 1960, and owner-occupied housing built before 1960 where children under six reside. The second phase, to start a year after the first one takes effect, would apply to renovations covered in the first stage plus renovations in rental housing built between 1960 and 1978. The second stage also would apply to owner-occupied housing built between 1960 and 1978 where children under six reside.
In 1978, there were three to four million children with elevated blood lead levels in the United States. Significant progress has been made to reduce lead poisonings. As of 2002, an estimated 310,000 children had elevated levels of lead in their blood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the Consumer Products Safety Commission banned lead-based paint for residential use in 1978, more than 38 million homes in the United States still contain some lead-based paint. Two-thirds of the houses built before 1960 contain lead-based paint.
This proposal is one component of a program that also will include training and an education and outreach campaign to promote lead-safe work practices.
Officials with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) said that the rule will not allay health problems but will add delays to renovation projects and cost home owners more.
"There is no scientific research that shows that remodeling causes lead poisoning in children," said Dave Wilson, NAHB president and a custom home builder from Ketchum, Idaho. "Federal efforts should focus on finding the sources of lead exposure -- commonly tap water, peeling paint or contaminated soil or dust -- and developing ways to mitigate that exposure. Instead, this rule concentrates on expensive restrictions that only affect the cost of remodeling."
EPA will take public comment for 90 days following publication of the proposal in the Federal Register. For more information or to obtain copies of the proposal and supporting materials, visit http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovation.htm.
This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.