EPA Settlements Help Protect Public Against Health Hazards from Lead Exposure

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced 75 enforcement actions from the past year that require renovation contractors and training providers to protect people from harmful exposure to lead dust and debris, as required by EPA’s Lead-based Paint Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) regulations. Seventy-five settlements were filed from October 2014 through September 2015 for renovations performed on pre-1978 homes and child-care facilities, and each requires that the alleged violator certify its compliance with RRP regulations to EPA and, in most cases, pay civil penalties to resolve the alleged violations. The violations cited in the settlements reflect EPA’s goal to reduce illegal and unsafe renovations, and the lead hazards risks that result from them. “Ensuring that lead-based paint is properly removed and handled helps protect children’s health when repairs or renovations are performed in older housing, particularly where kids live” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “These cases show that EPA is serious about making sure companies that break the law are held accountable when they undercut responsible businesses and put public health at risk.” In three of the settlements, entities agreed to fund voluntary lead abatement projects, which require removal of lead-based paint and post-construction testing to ensure that no hazardous conditions remain. Each of the projects is expected to cost at least $20,000 to complete. Approximately two-thirds of the cases involved failure to obtain EPA certification prior to conducting renovations. The cases reflect an increased focus on ensuring that firms and renovators comply with lead-safe work practices intended to protect children and others from exposure to lead dust. More than half of the cases cited violations of work practice standards and other requirements that directly affect how work is performed. Lead dust and debris from improper renovation activities on properties built prior to 1978 is a major source of lead exposure that can cause lead poisoning. Although using lead-based paint in dwellings was prohibited after 1978, it is still present in more than 30 million homes across the nation, in all types of communities. The RRP Rule provides important protections for children and others vulnerable to lead exposure. Even low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in behaviour and learning problems, lower IQ and hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems and anaemia. In rare cases, ingestion of lead can cause seizures, coma and even death. The RRP Rule, which is part of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, is intended to ensure that owners and occupants of pre-1978 “target housing” and “child-occupied facilities” receive information on lead-based paint hazards before renovations begin, that individuals performing such renovations are properly trained and certified, and that renovators and workers follow specific lead-safe work practices during renovations to reduce the potential for exposure to lead. The penalties in the settlements address the cited violations. Enforcement penalties also help deter other violations, and level the playing field for companies that follow the law. These fines help eliminate the financial advantage a violator may get by underbidding competitors that are compliant. Contractors that are certified under EPA’s RRP regulations are encouraged to display EPA’s “Lead-Safe” logo on worker’s uniforms, signs, websites, and other material, as appropriate. Consumers can protect themselves by looking for the logo before hiring a home contractor, and by being generally aware of whether a renovator is following lead-safe work practices when working on their property. Those practices, such as what a renovator must do to minimise lead dust dispersion, are outlined in EPA’s Renovate Right lead hazard information pamphlet, available at: http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/renovaterightbrochure.pdf Renovators are required to give the pamphlet to property owners and occupants within 60 days before starting any renovation.

U.S EPA, 27 October 2015 ;http://www.epa.gov ;