Remodeling Lead Rule Would Leave Children Unprotected
NAHB is calling for the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up ambiguities in its recently published supplement to the proposed rules for remodeling and renovation activities in homes where there may be lead-based paint.
The agency now wants to include “child-occupied facilities” in the proposed rule, an addition NAHB wholeheartedly supports “because their inclusion will capture additional sources of lead contamination,” NAHB Staff Vice President for Environmental and Labor Policy Susan Asmus said in a 19-page comment letter to EPA.
But lack of clarity regarding what constitutes a child-occupied facility, the possibility of additional liability for the remodeler and the fact that the rule exempts home owners is likely to blunt the impact of the proposal — and leave more children unprotected, the letter said.
In the meantime, under onerous requirements remaining in the rule proposal, professional remodelers would have to keep extensive records and conduct and document testing, adding to the cost of their work and providing an incentive for home owners to do the work themselves — perhaps not in a lead-safe manner, the letter pointed out.
“NAHB is concerned that nowhere in [the proposal] is the agency held accountable for ensuring the effectiveness of this rule in eliminating or even reducing childhood lead poisoning,” the letter said.
The NAHB letter addresses several specific concerns in the supplemental proposal:
- Unclear definitions. “The criteria used for establishing a [child-occupied facility] are certainly vague and ambiguous,” the letter said. Specifying that it only needs to be the part of the building where children spend most of their time omits kitchens and dining areas, leaving them vulnerable to lead contamination from food preparation, should lead-based paint be present. Additionally, specifying how long children can occupy different areas of the facility before lead-based paint renovation rules would apply does not make sense, the letter said. “The three-hour daily duration, six hours weekly and 60 hours annually is tantamount to requesting that a child punch a time clock each time he or she goes on a play date or spends time with a grandparent.”
- Impractical notification. NAHB supports a requirement for remodelers to provide their clients with the EPA’s “Protect Your Family From Lead” or a similar brochure when they are applicable. But the remodeler should not be responsible for educating the parents, guardians or teachers in the “child-occupied facility,” which is the building owner’s job, the letter said. Further, the rule does not apply if the building’s owner does the work himself. “Not requiring notification for a ‘do-it-yourself’ renovation or repair in a [child-occupied facility] misses the goal and fails to adequately protect the entire target population.”
- No “safe harbor.” The rule inadequately protects remodelers — most of whom are not licensed lead abatement specialists – from lawsuits. “NAHB urges EPA to incorporate language into the rule that makes clear the remodelers’ obligations and what constitutes full compliance with these requirements,” the letter said.
“NAHB is in full support of training and certification of its members, but EPA needs to be mindful of its obligations and goals,” the letter said. “Childhood safety needs to be the number-one goal of this proposed rule.”
EPA is likely to release the final rule by the end of the year.
For more information, e-mail Calli Schmidt at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.