Today, a law took effect nationwide regarding lead paint use in structural improvement, remodeling, and renovation projects, including many residential home improvements. Devised by the Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to protect children from lead poisoning, the law aims to control toxic lead dust on renovation sites by both limiting its release and properly cleaning up that which never the less does get released.

Who Does The New EPA Lead Based Paint Law Affect?

The new EPA lead based paint law requires contractors and their employees be certified in lead based paint safety, prevention, and cleanup as per an EPA certification program, as well as adhere to stringent safety practices any time they conduct home renovation or remodeling projects in buildings built before 1978. Projects on condominiums, townhouses, schools, preschools, and day care centers constructed pre-1978 are also likewise affected. As are any structures built before then that children 6 years of age or younger or pregnant women may enter.

The law does not apply to regular homeowners conducting home improvements on their own. But anyone who is paid to perform the same duties is obligated to adhere to these new mandates.

What Does The New EPA Lead Based Paint Law Require?

Starting now, contractors conducting any residential renovation projects are required to follow explicit measures to prevent the release of toxic lead dust into the air, and to eradicate any that may have been released none the less, despite the appropriate safety precautions taken.

Among these newly safety mandates is the required wearing of protective clothing and use of plastic sheeting in all areas where a risk of lead paint exposure may be present. Proper cleanup and disposal of all potentially contaminated construction materials is also a part of the law’s mandates.

According to one Colorado contractor, the fine for failing to abide by these new requirements could top $37,000 per violation for each day that the incident persists uncorrected.

Any demolition work can stir up lead-based dust and paint chips, but so can simple handling of exposed construction and renovation materials.

The Costs of the New Law

Contractors are in a sticky position with this new law because, certainly they are all in favor of protecting children from exposure to lead based paint, however, abiding by all of these new strictures imposed on them will no doubt dent their wallets considerably. And homeowners can be sure that those elevated expenses will be passed on to them. For example, that same Colorado contractor estimates that his charges for installing windows could now jump by as much as around $100 per window.

Just the safety equipment alone that the law requires of contractors now—the protective clothing, the plastic sheeting, respirators, vacuum cleaners for removing lead dust inadvertently released during a job, lead testing kits to check for the presence of lead based paint in older homes—can jack up the bottom line on a project pretty quickly.

Abiding by the new ETA lead based paint law will also require contractors take longer to complete jobs that they could previously have done in half the time, what with the extra precautions they’ll now have to take.

Construction professionals opposing the law points out the disparity between the spirit of it and the letter of it, because in completely practical terms, all a contractor or his worker needs to do is shoot his nail gun once and instantly dust is going to fly into the air. If that wall has lead-based paint in it, then there’s a contamination right there. This makes contractors more accountable for their workers than ever.

The certification requirement in the law, meanwhile, means that someone has to offer the necessary programs to certify all the contractors out there so that they can be complicit. But according to the EPA’s own records there are currently less than 200 companies nationwide that are even licensed to teach the certified training program. Fortunately that hasn’t stopped some 150,000 contractors from already managing to get themselves trained and up to snuff, also according to agency statistics. The city of St. Joseph, Missouri, for one, brought in a company to conduct a two-day long, eight-hour lead certification course for 50 local contractors and their employees.

Exceptions to the Law: Fact & Myth

Prior to the implementation of the new EPA law, an attempt had been made to allow for the certification requirements (but not the safety requirements) to be waived if the renovation work was to be done in a home that was not occupied by children six years old or under or by pregnant women. However, that attempt failed, and that so-called “opt-out provision” is not in the current law.

Exceptions to the law that are valid, however, are minor repairs that don’t disturb more than 6 square feet of space, and work done in a building that, while it may have been built pre-1978, has already been properly confirmed to be free of lead-based paint.

Raising Awareness of the New EPA Lead Based Paint Law

According to statistics reported by KPVI News 6, an NBC affiliate, lead paint poisoning impacts more than 1 million children. The EPA warns that exposure to lead based paint by children six years of age and under could lead to learning disabilities, behavioral problems, central nervous system problems, and even brain damage.

The EPA is currently distributing “Renovate Right” pamphlets across the nation to make it easier for affected parties to comply with the new law. And again while homeowners are not required to comply with the law, reading the renovated write pamphlets as guidelines and safety advice could be a wise move. They’re also running a toll-free hotline called the National Lead Information Center at, fittingly, 1-800-424-LEAD.

Lead based paint has been banned for residential use since 1978. The EPA got the lead based paint law passed in 2008, but only now are states required to put those mandates into affect. Thursday, April 22 was a fitting day for this to happen, as it was the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

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