New Lead Dust Paint Law Affects Home Repairs

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You may want to make a mental note of April 22, particularly if your home was built before 1978. It is the day a new federal law goes into effect that will require remodeling projects be performed by companies certified in lead containment.

Congress picked 1978 as the year of concern, that year was the first year lead used in paints was made illegal in the United States. Homes built after that have a better chance that they do not contain lead in the paint on the walls. There are two caveats in that statement, “better chance” and “paint on the walls.”

Better Chance before 1978: There is a “better chance” because the police didn’t go door-to-door and destroy all lead paint containers that year so surplus paint may have been used to paint your home in say, 1980. On the other hand, companies realized the hazards of lead paint before 1978 and your home may not contain lead at all.

RRP Certification Training, Lead Paint Containment, Protective Clothing for Workers

Bill Allman demonstrates the proper procedures to Pamela Keller for donning protective worker clothing in a Certified Renovator training exercise at an Improveit! Home Remodeling training facility.

There is evidence that lead paint was known to be harmful in some ways as early as 1897. Cans of Aspinell’s Enamel produced in England contained the marketing phrase, “Does Not Contain Lead.” They were not alone in the marketing of lead-free paint.

Long before that lead was popular and widely used commonly, including in the printing industry. We now know that Benjamin Franklin had lead poisoning. He wrote of the effects in a famous letter in 1786, even proclaiming that a distillery had poisoned the people of North Carolina by using lead in its process. He penned that Massachusetts had outlawed the use of lead soon after that. Franklin died four years later.

Paint on the Walls: The law doesn’t just pertain to “paint on the walls”, lead was used for other construction projects such as in the grout in bathroom tiles, or in the tiles themselves. The law protects you from having that dust circulated throughout the house in home renovations.

Figures are dramatic for homes built before 1940 where 86% of the homes in the United States are estimated to contain lead in paint or some other form. It drops slightly for homes built between 1940 and 1959 to 66%, and more dramatically for homes between 1960 and 1978 whereby 25% of the homes are estimated to have a lead presence. These estimates are averaged over the United States, but there is a conclusion that these percentages are higher East of the Mississippi.

What happens Beyond April 22: Consider April 22 as the day lead paint has to be contained in much the same way as asbestos has to be contained according to EPA standards. To consider why Congress is taking these steps we can look at the history of lead paint.

Lead was added to paint for color and durability, it also had the inherent ability to kill living organisms. The health risks continue to add up for exposures to lead. Lead poisoning contributes to damage of the brain and the central nervous system. Subjects experience decreased intelligence, reading and learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and permanent liver damage. The risk is greatest to the fetus of pregnant woman, where calcium for the unborn is drawn from the bones of the mother where lead is present. The risk is also great in toddlers under the age of two because the body is experiencing a large degree of growth. As little as 40 micrograms can be fatal.

Congress and the EPA have addressed the issue over the years and banned the use of lead in paints starting in 1978. It may be that no home is exempt from the dangers of lead poisoning. While renovating the White House in 1992, Millie, the family pet of President George H.W. Bush died from breathing in lead dust. That year Congress enacted the Title X (Ten) Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992. Although the act focused primarily on HUD housing lead containment, it did bring awareness once again to the issue. In the public sector guidelines were implemented to disclose lead presence when selling a home.

Tony and Jean Ventresca of Improveit! Home Remodeling learn to test for lead paint at a workshop for RRP Certification.

Not until April 22, 2008 did the EPA enact Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) rules that will have a far-reaching effect on home remodeling projects. Congress gave the EPA this power through the Toxic Substances Control Act. The rule is to become effective two years later. It designated target housing as built before 1978 and child-occupied facilities, with wording to define each. There is an opt-out waiver for homeowners, but only if there are no children present under the age of six.

Why is this Important to Me?: After April 22 any project that affects an area of 6 square feet indoors or 20 square feet outdoors will require a Certified Renovator to perform the work, if the surfaces affected are tested positive for lead. This could affect work done on the home by cable installers, painters, paid handymen, plumbers tearing out walls, or home remodelers.

These rules will be enforced to protect your children, you, and the workers performing the work. Certified renovators are trained in the procedures for containing and reducing the amount of lead dust when removing debris from the home. They are also responsible for training their workers to perform containment procedures under the guidelines of the EPA. There are more stringent guidelines for HUD housing where Federal dollars are used in the renovation.

Another advantage is that these procedures require thorough cleaning procedures during and after the project to limit the amount of lead dust remaining around the work area of your home. You can expect a cleaner finish to a job when work is performed by a Certified Renovator.

You should request to see the RRP certificate of the renovator if work is to be performed at your home. There are many companies that are pro-active in their certification. Those performing work that are not certified, or not following the guidelines of the RRP process, are subject to heavy fines for each violation. For repeated violations or total disregard of the law stiffer penalties include loss of certification and imprisonment

Certified Renovators are also required to present a Renovate Right pamphlet put out by the EPA and HUD. Most questions are answered in the pamphlet, including the guidelines which will give you the option to opt-out of the RRP containment procedures.

The author, Tom Briggle is a Certified Renovator
Special thanks to Bill Allman and Bill Reynolds who provided information for this article

RRP Certification, Improveit Home Remodeling, lead containment, lead abatement, Certified Renovator, Remodeler, Painting, Repairing

Supervisors working for Improveit! Home Remodeling in Columbus, OH attend a workshop to become Certified Renovators. Companies like Improveit! are proactive in their certification training and lead containment procedures.

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9 Comments so far

  1. John Williams - February 12, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    The EPA has a good reference called “Using Barriers to Contain Dust and other Pollutants” Here is the link from their site. http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-barriers.html. Barriers should be used to contain the spread of dust and other pollutants from the work area to other parts of the home. A simple barrier consists of 6 mil poly sheeting taped over doors and other openings in the room. Poly sheeting should also be taped over any supply and return registers for the home’s heating, cooling, or ventilation system that are in the room to avoid spreading the pollutants or contaminating the ducts. Having blocked off registers, you should be sure to provide ventilation for the area. An exhaust fan, with provision for make-up air, complements this strategy well. For more information, see the discussion of ventilation containment strategies that create a pressure barrier to prevent the spread of pollutants. ZipWall’s new ZipPole system is a great system for only $169, half the price of the original ZipWall Barrier System. Click here to learn more: http://www.zipwall.com/lp/lpZipPole.html

  2. tbriggle - February 12, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Thanks John. Ohio requires 6 mil, which is higher than the Federal Requirement of 4 mil. The EPA allows states to implement their own regulations.

  3. Ralph L. Barnette-Restorx ne ohio - March 22, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    We are smoke and drying specialists in Akron, Ohio. Are there any classes soon to become a Certified renovator for the lead base paint. We currently remove a lot of drywall during drying etc..

  4. Richard Balestrieri - March 24, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    This is stuped and crazy, its tuff enoungh getting work at these times and just giving us till end of april to get certified, this is just when we are getting back working.At least give us a year to prepare, and refine the law. I CANT SEE A 30 PLUS YEAR OLD WINDOW THAT IS GOING TO BE REPLACED WITH 3 OR 4 COATS OF LATEX GIVING OFF LEAD. Give us a break. Just for your info. I have 30 plus years experience as a building contractor and I am very reputable.

  5. Federal Lead Dust Rules About to Take Effect - March 28, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    […] For more information, see “New Lead Dust Paint Law Affects Home Repairs.” […]

  6. James Jamison - March 30, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    I live in Amelia, Ohio how do I get certified in Lead containment or who do I contact.

  7. Jennifer Zapata - March 31, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    This law creates an impossible requirement for house painters. They have to retrieve all water and paint chips when powerwashing a house. At the class they don’t know how to do this. The only answer was from a painter who said to have the homeowner do it themselves. The fed has created an impossible requirement. God save us from the fed.

  8. jim - April 17, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    What is wrong with the fed? Who is really behind this thing,? This is only going to pass on more cost to landlords who already have a tough time. The cost will have to be passed on to the renters and we all know that rent is high enough already……Who are they gong to go after next? What about plumbers for using lead solder in pipes……..Who ever passed this law should never be voted back in office………….

  9. Bob Says - April 28, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Where is the lead police, can I get a job? where do I apply? I hope the painters have great insurance, I can see it coming, got LEAD or has everyone forgot got MOLD!!!!!


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