New Lead Regulations

On Earth Day (April 22, 2010) the EPA set into effect new regulations concerning the testing of and removal of paint that may be contaminated with lead. Not to alarm anyone, but lead was used as a pigment in commercially available house paint until 1978. By then the paint industry had substantially reduced the percentage (by volume) of lead in paint, but it was still used.  The short, basic version of these new regulations is that anyone working with potential lead paint must be certified and licensed. Only those certified and licensed are legally able to determine if there is lead in your paint and/or legally able to conduct lead abatement. Certification will cost the contractors more money, but it helps homeowners and renters in the long run by making sure the forms are not being tampered with by someone not wanting to deal with lead abatement. Federal law mandates that sellers and landlord disclose any information about lead paint.

Here is part of the EPA press release:

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that renovations and repairs of pre-1978 housing must now be conducted using safe practices to protect children and pregnant women from exposure to lead-based paint. Almost a million children have elevated blood lead levels as a result of exposure to lead hazards, which can lead to lower intelligence, learning disabilities, and behavior issues. Adults exposed to lead hazards can suffer from high blood pressure and headaches. Children under six years old are most at risk.

“Our lead-safe program will protect children and families from lead-based paint hazards associated with renovation and repair activities in houses built before 1978,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “This rule requires contractors to follow some simple and effective lead-safe work practices to prevent children’s exposure to dangerous levels of lead. Lead poisoning is completely preventable.”

In addition to the rule becoming effective, EPA has issued three additional actions:

o A final rule to apply lead-safe work practices to all pre-1978 homes, effectively closing an exemption that was created in 2008. The rule will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

o A notice of proposed rule making to require dust-wipe testing after most renovations and provide the results of the testing to the owners and occupants of the building. For some of these renovations, the proposal would require that lead dust levels after the renovation be below the regulatory hazard standards. EPA will take comment on the proposal for 60 days. The agency expects to finalize the rule by July 2011.

o An advance notice of proposed rule making to announce EPA’s intention to apply lead-safe work practices to renovations on public and commercial buildings. The advance notice also announces EPA’s investigation into lead-based paint hazards that may be created by renovations on the interior of these public and commercial buildings. If EPA determines that lead-based paint hazards are created by interior renovations, EPA will propose regulations to address the hazards.

The moral of the story? The EPA is stepping up regulations to make living conditions safer for everyone. You can help. Don’t panic about lead; be aware and know what you can do. Check out the EPA’s basic information about lead and the Lead-Free Kids program.  And most importantly, do not let anyone who is not newly certified tell you if you have/do not have lead in your home. For example, as a preservationist I can tell you the facts about lead added to paint with years and percentages, but I cannot professionally or legally confirm or deny that your pre-1978 home has lead paint. Got it?