EPA Rule Could Increase Exposure to Lead
A proposed Lead, Renovation, Repair and Painting Program rule that would govern remodelers working in homes in which lead paint is present should be reassessed to make sure that it does not discourage home owners from hiring trained, professional contractors in order to avoid the high costs of mandated clearance, NAHB said in an April 17 letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In its comments, the association added that it remains committed to the safety of its members and their employees and clients and “applauds the EPA’s efforts to end lead poisoning.”
An NAHB study on lead-safe work practices completed last year shows that a home is better off after a remodel than before, as long as it’s done by trained remodelers who clean the work area with HEPA-equipped vacuums, wet washing and disposable drop cloths. “NAHB remains convinced of the merits of these techniques and supports training renovators in these techniques and certifying their firms as ‘lead-safe,’’’ the letter said.
The additional training, however, is likely to drive up the cost of remodeling, which may encourage home owners to do the work themselves without following these lead-safe practices. To prevent this from happening, NAHB is urging the EPA to provide incentives for home owners to hire professionally trained contractors when they remodel houses built before 1978, the year in which lead-based paint stopped being sold for homes.
“We urge the EPA to educate the public on the risks of lead-based paint and other lead sources, tell the public what it can do to reduce its risks of exposure to lead and endorse the hiring of competent, trained remodelers when renovating pre-1978 dwellings,” the letter said.
NAHB is especially concerned about the clearance testing required after the project has been completed. A survey of home owners found that an overwhelming 81% of those planning to hire a professional remodeler within the next two years said they would not pay the estimated $200 per room to ensure a safe lead dust level. Similar results were found for those involved in “do-it-yourself” projects.
“Any clearance testing requirements create an incentive to avoid hiring professionally trained remodelers, raising the chance of exposure to lead-based paint dust rather than reducing it,” the letter said.
NAHB is also concerned about liability. “A clearance testing standard for NAHB remodelers would make them responsible for all preexisting lead paint hazards and impose the positive duty to permanently remove them, which matches the definition of abatement,” the letter said, even though remodelers are not specialists in lead abatement.
Without these necessary changes, the EPA’s goal of reducing lead poisoning in children is not likely to be met, NAHB cautioned, because the proposal as it now stands will discourage home owners from remodeling old homes or hiring professionals to do the work. “The rule will likely increase — not decrease — the risk of children’s exposure to lead,” NAHB said.
NAHB Remodelers leaders are now considering whether to launch training programs in lead-safe work practices for their members, according to Remodelers Chair Mike Nagel, CGR, CAPS, an Illinois remodeler.
“There are two important messages here,” Nagel said. “First of all, it’s very important that home owners hire professional remodelers, especially if they live in pre-1978 housing.
“Secondly, we need to encourage more remodelers to join NAHB so they can take advantage of all the professional training now available, and to learn about lead-safe work practices. It’s the professional thing to do.”
For more information, e-mail Calli Schmidt at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.