Lead Paint Rule in Final Review
The impending U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting rule governing professional remodelers doing work in homes where there is lead-based paint is undergoing a final review by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
NAHB expects the rule to be released around the end of March.
The rule addresses remodeling and renovation projects disturbing more than two feet of potentially contaminated painted surfaces for all residential and multifamily structures built prior to 1978 that are inhabited by a child under the age of six.
Children under age six are at risk from exposure to lead-based paint, and older homes are more likely to include surfaces covered by lead-based paint.
NAHB members met with OMB staff to outline the association’s concerns about the rule. NAHB cautioned regulators against imposing inappropriate and costly regulatory burdens on remodelers that would make it cost-prohibitive for consumers to hire trained professionals, or that could lead to further proliferation of potentially harmful do-it-yourself projects.
Committed to the safety of its members and their clients, NAHB is working aggressively to promote the value of lead-safe work practices and the benefits of professional remodeling for older homes.
A 2006 NAHB study on lead-safe work practices showed that a home was better off after a remodel than before, as long as the work was performed by trained remodelers who clean the work area with HEPA-equipped vacuums, wet washing and disposable drop cloths.
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.
NAHB is also concerned about the clearing verification required after the project has been completed.
"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," NAHB told EPA officials in a letter sent last year.
In addition, NAHB is 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. The statute and regulation governing lead-based paint clearly differentiate between remodeling and abatement.
Without these necessary changes, 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.
"There are two important messages here," said NAHB Remodelers Chair Mike Nagel, a remodeler in suburban Chicago. "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," Nagel said.
The results of NAHB’s study showed that remodeling work significantly reduces (by 40% to 60%) lead dust loadings in a home. However, NAHB’s study was performed in severely deteriorated housing not typical of remodeling work.
The NAHB study, along with EPA’s study, showed that with excessive amounts of pre-existing lead dust in the home prior to remodeling work, even using lead-safe work practices is not always sufficient to meet federal abatement standards.
Nevertheless, other peer-reviewed research shows that in typical remodeling situations, cleaning to a level of “no visible dust and debris” meets clearance testing standards a vast majority of the time (up to 97%).
When the rule is released, NAHB will continue to inform members about details and next steps.
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