EPA Puts Sweeping Lead Paint Regulation in Federal Registry
The Environmental Protection Agency's newly proposed rule governing lead-based paint in the remodeling industry will not solve the serious health problem it was designed to help prevent: lead poisoning in young children.
Instead, the new rule, which EPA unveiled on Dec. 29, will add delays to renovation projects and cost home owners more.
“There is no scientific research that shows that remodeling causes lead poisoning in children,” said Bob Hanbury, a Newington, Conn. remodeler and past chair of the Remodelors Council. “Federal efforts should focus on finding the sources of lead exposure — usually tap water, peeling paint or contaminated soil or dust — and developing ways to mitigate that exposure. Instead, this rule concentrates on expensive restrictions that only affect the cost of remodeling.”
The new EPA rule, which applies to all contractors working in homes built before 1978, changes practices regarding training, licensing and insurance, the costs of which will ultimately be passed on to home owners. Because of liability issues, it is likely that fewer firms will continue working on pre-1978 homes, which will limit the availability of certified renovators and drive costs even higher.
The EPA’s recent announcement follows a year of change that has many NAHB members wondering what happened to the voluntary program that was envisioned both by the agency and affected home builders. A pilot Lead Safety Partnership program was unveiled just before the 2005 International Builders’ Show, but in May the agency announced that the program had been withdrawn. No explanation was provided.
A voluntary program combined with effective consumer education, NAHB believes, would create a more affordable market for consumers who want a remodeling firm that follows lead-safe work practices.
“By eliminating universal compliance costs, there is a greater likelihood that a home owner needing a lead-safe contractor can afford one,” Hanbury said. “There is also less incentive for a home owner to find an alternate, and potentially less safe, means of getting remodeling done.”
Disagreeing With EPA’s ‘Facts’
Hanbury said he disagrees with the EPA’s assertion last month that it is proposing “some simple but effective work practice standards.”
“The work practices discussed are not at all simple,” he said. “Some of the steps involve advanced technology like HEPA filter vacuums that are not common on a typical job site. Conventional vacuums can be outfitted with inexpensive filters to remove lead-contaminated dust, but the new rule does not allow them.”
Also, the standards apply to “all persons who do renovation for compensation,” leaving a wide range of projects unregulated.
“If it is so important to protect the consumer from the ‘danger’ of remodeling, then EPA needs a new standard,” Hanbury said. “Half the remodeling work in the U.S. is done by the home owner, not a contractor.”
A proposed requirement for the firm to clean the work area after completing the renovation raises another problem, he said.
“It’s one thing to clean up after you are finished, but this rule leaves us exposed to the responsibility of trying to fix pre-existing conditions. This asks us to take the place of lead-abatement firms and likely will result in remodelers declining jobs in homes that need lead-safe work practices the most,” Hanbury said.
Finally, the new rule is based on “just bad science,” Hanbury said. “There is no study that links remodeling jobs to children having blood lead levels higher than 10 micrograms per deciliter, which is the Center for Disease Control’s definition of an elevated level in a child under the age of six.”
“We also know that 90% of the homes built between 1960 and 1978 do not contain lead paint. Forcing all remodeling firms to comply with onerous new rules even when there is a low likelihood of exposure is a waste of money and time that would be better spent on targeted prevention and eradication efforts,” he said. “The EPA is headed in the wrong direction with this rule.”
Learn more about the rule by visiting the Council's lead paint section of NAHB's Web site.
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