Healthy Housing Advocates Respond to Changes in the EPA RRP Rule and Express Caution Over Lack of Required Clearance Testing

Washington, DC (July 15, 2011) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced changes to the Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule today. Some changes ease the burden for contractors while others strengthen the rule’s health protectiveness. The changes are available online at www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/lrrpprepub.pdf.

NCHH Executive Director Rebecca Morley said, “Children’s health advocates are disheartened that EPA chose not to strengthen the rule and better protect kids by requiring clearance dust testing after renovation work. Nonetheless, our priority now is to ensure compliance with this important rule so that we can curtail the needless suffering for over a million U.S. children from this preventable disease.”

A summary of the significant changes announced by EPA includes:

  • Renovators must build a containment wall—a barrier consisting of plastic sheeting or other impermeable material over scaffolding or a rigid frame—to enclose an exterior work space and prevent the spread of lead dust outside of the area.
  • Uncertified workers should be trained by certified renovators in lead-safe work practices.
  • Certified renovators should ensure their workers maintain containment and do not spread dust or debris.
  • States may charge higher penalties for non-compliance with the rule.

Advocates are calling for EPA to step up its compliance and enforcement efforts. “Time’s up – it’s been over two years since EPA published this rule. Contractors simply can no longer feign ignorance of the rule’s requirements,” said Morley. Training has been offered widely in all 50 states, and 687,000 renovators have been trained. The time has come for EPA, states, and building code officials to crack down on contractors who have not applied for certification and especially those not following the rule.

The National Center for Healthy Housing recommends the following:

  • Homeowners contracting for painting or renovation work should ask contractors to show proof of their lead-safe status.  This includes both a renovator and a firm certification.
  • EPA should increase consumer outreach to educate homeowners and increase enforcement to crack down on contractors that are not adhering to the law.
  • Homeowners and rental property owners should require clearance testing at the end of any renovation project that stirs up dust in a pre-1978 home.

On April 22, 2008, EPA issued a rule requiring the use of lead-safe work practices for renovation, repair, and painting projects that disturb paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978. The rule is aimed at preventing lead poisoning in children as a result of messy renovation and painting work. On April 22, 2010, the rule became effective.  As a result, firms performing renovation, repair, and painting projects in pre-1978 homes and facilities must now be certified in lead-safe work practices; individual renovators must be trained by an EPA-accredited training provider; and the firms and renovators must follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination. EPA estimates that the costs to contractors to follow the work practices will range from $8 to $167 per job.

To become a certified renovator, individuals are required to complete eight hours of training successfully, of which a minimum of two hours must be hands-on training. This training is good for five years. The cost of this training, typically $175-300, is set by individual training providers. In addition, renovation firms must be certified by EPA or by a state authorized by EPA to administer its own program. Firm certification involves filling out a simple two-page application and paying a fee of $300.  To access the lead-safe certified firm application, visit www.epa.gov/getleadsafe. Firm certification is good for five years.

The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) is the only national scientific and technical nonprofit organization dedicated to creating healthy and safe homes for America’s children through practical and proven steps. NCHH develops scientifically valid and practical strategies to make homes safe from hazards, to alert low-income families about housing-related health risks and to help them protect their children.

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