• New Lead Rule Will Impose Stricter Standards for Renovations, Repairs and Painting Projects
  • May 14, 2008 | Author: Lauren Grahovac Harpke
  • Law Firm: Quarles & Brady LLP - Milwaukee Office
  • Ingestion of lead by a child can lead to brain damage, nervous system damage, behavioral and learning problems, headaches and other negative developmental effects. Lead exposure can also result in serious medical problems for adults, including reproductive problems, nerve disorders, high blood pressure, and memory or concentration problems. As a result, the EPA banned the use of lead-based paints from housing developments in 1978. However, lead-based paint and the associated risks still exist in buildings constructed or renovated prior to 1978.

    To further minimize the risks posed by lead to children, the EPA signed the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Program Rule on March 31, 2008, which will go into effect in April 2010.

    What will the rule require?

    The rule will require contractors to be certified and to follow specific best-care practices when conducting renovation, repair or painting projects in certain child-occupied buildings built before 1978. The rule will also require contractors to distribute information to owners and occupants about lead hazards and the work the contractor will perform.

    When will the rule apply?

    Protecting children from ingestion of lead is the focus of the rule, and thus the affected buildings are those frequented by children. The rule applies to residences built before 1978, where a pregnant woman or a child under six years old lives. Additionally, it applies to buildings that are regularly occupied by a child under six years old. In order to qualify as a "child-occupied building," the same child would have to visit the building on at least two different days in a week, for at least three hours per visit, for a total of at least 60 hours per year.

    The final rule also differentiates between renovations and minor repairs. The rule will not apply if the renovation, repair or painting activities cover less than 6 square feet per room or less than 20 square feet on exteriors. However, this exemption for minor repairs applies only if the project does not involve any prohibited practices such as using open flames or using high-speed sanding or grinding operations without suitable HEPA controls.

    What will compliance cost?

    Complying with the new rule is predicted by EPA to add only $35 to each renovation or repair project. By comparing the low cost with the estimated number of child lead poisonings it will hopefully prevent, the rule is praised as efficient and effective. However, critics claim the rule is not inclusive enough and should provide more protection. Most notably, the rule will not protect children whose families cannot afford to hire contractors for renovation work.

    What are the requirements between now and April 2010?

    The rule is not effective until April 2010. However, the EPA recommends that contractors follow certain precautionary steps when working on pre-1978 homes, buildings, child care facilities or schools. Specifically, the EPA recommends that contractors contain the work area, minimize dust and clean up thoroughly. Additionally, beginning in December 2009, the rule will require that contractors provide informational pamphlets to inform owners and occupants.

    Additional information is available from the EPA's Lead website at www.epa.gov/lead/.