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?

7 thoughts on “New Lead Regulations

  1. nicholas says:

    while i completely agree with safe lead abatement, the EPA will be profiting too greatly for this. yes: Fee the heck out of people not removing it properly, but don’t charge the heck out of people just to get certified. Roughly $1,000 per contractor/business + $400 per employee involved in lead abatement.

    it’s a shame for businesses which already do safe lead abatement, if not the exact EPA brand, how much they will be paying to get certified for something they already know how to do.

    this issue is so hard to make sense of some times.

    • Kaitlin says:

      Nicholas, I agree with you about certification charges, particularly because those costs will end up being absorbed by the customers, many of whom may not have enough money. The high costs will discourage people from following the laws, and then they will have to pay the extraordinary fines. In your opinion, what is the better way? What have you and your colleagues at Belmont Tech discussed?

  2. nicholas says:

    hmmm…..not taking a seminar class this quarter, so not entirely sure what others are thinking in regards to this new development …..however, our field lab instructor who is the superintendent for a major WV preservation company “Alleghenny Restoration” is predicting negative effects for the construction industry and especially for those who have their whole business based on paint services. His company spends tons of money in any abatement procedure on things as simple as booties to cover your feet….and the protective clothing, it all adds up.

    But yeah, I think this could discourage some people from even getting certified or from getting their paint evaluated. It’s a really difficult issue to argue for or against 100%. But I think the first thing that should be done is to focus on educating the public and educating those in the construction industry (preservationists tend to understand lead, right?) of its main routes of poisoning people, especially children. Building demolition or anything which gets the particles in the air seems to be the most qualified culprit in the lead debate. If more people are educated, they can avoid situations that can lead to poisoning. No amount of certification or licensing is going to take away the threat of ignorance. This applies to stained glass shops or any place where lead solder is used, too.

    Certification, licensing, and penalties are smart to get everybody on the same page…….but the price is going to be the deterrant. Our instructor, who can somehow manage to keep us all laughing for hours with his stories, describes the process his company goes through when they were doing recent work at the WV capitol building removing lead paint….and an act his workers term “levetating” when exiting the lead confinement area and the awkward and mechanical process of removing booties and protective clothing…the EPA regulations on HOW to remove lead make it much harder than it needs to be, I gather. Too over the top. We should consider technologies and pay extra for disposal services, etc….but common sense is also good. Lead abatement to-the-extreme makes perfect sense for those in the abatement industry and who have to deal with harmful substances on a daily basis.

    • Kaitlin says:

      Thank you for sharing that Nicholas. I agree; it is hard to be for or against the new regulations (particularly because I won’t pretend I know a lot about them), common sense is always key, and hopefully we’ll come to a better solution. I guess that right now the EPA sees it as a way to protect the greatest number of people – I’m not sure. I learned in class that much of the lead in our environment came from gasoline from just a few decades ago! So then our problem isn’t even paint — it’s already in the ground and just floating around in the air. Education to give people common sense about lead is definitely important.

  3. nicholas says:

    oh, and they have a shop specifically for windows…..and they use steam removal of the paint (leaded or unleaded)…the steaming process encapsulates the lead and does the job affordably with no hysteria.

    i wonder what the EPA thinks about lead encapsulation????? I wonder if lead encapsulation might be the next big thing to cut costs?

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