Slaughter and Franken, Members of Congress, Strongly Support NCHH’s Lead Safety Recommendation

Simple Code Amendments Could Protect Americans from Unsafe Work Practices

In a letter to International Code Council (ICC) President Alex “Cash” Olszowy III, Representative Louise Slaughter (D, NY-25) and Senator Al Franken (D, MN) expressed strong support for a recent code improvement suggested by the National Center for Healthy Housing.

Wrote Slaughter and Franken, along with others from the Senate and House of Representatives: “The consequences of unsafe construction practices in homes with lead paint can be disastrous, as there is no safe level of lead exposure. In fact, children are especially at risk, since exposure has been associated with several adverse effects including behavioral and learning problems, lower IQ, hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems, and anemia.”

Renovations to older homes are one of the ways that families can be exposed to poisonous lead dust. Since promulgating the Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule in 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has required all renovators who supervise work in pre-1978 housing to complete an eight-hour course in lead-safe work practices, and 14 states currently enforce their own version of the federal RRP rule.

Furthermore, the EPA and enforcement states require that the renovation firm itself must register as a “lead-safe certified firm” before they can legally perform renovation work. However, it’s the ICC that develops the building standards and codes used across the country, and they haven’t yet required that contractors include proof of their lead-safe certification when applying for building permits. NCHH’s proposed amendments (to the International Building Code, International Existing Building Code, and International Residential Code), submitted in January, seek to improve lead poisoning prevention efforts by requiring renovators to include a copy of their EPA lead-safe firm certification as part of the permit application process.

Representative Slaughter’s press release stated that she and Senator Franken “…ask the council to adopt a commonsense code change proposed by the National Center for Healthy Housing. The proposal would simply require that any contractor that seeks to obtain a building permit to conduct renovations in buildings constructed prior to 1978 include the appropriate safety certification as part of the permit application process to ensure that no hazardous levels of lead dust are left behind.”

It’s been an uphill battle. NCHH’s proposed amendment was disapproved at ICC’s Public Comment Hearing in October, but the battle isn’t over yet. Eligible Final Action voters (including “ICC Governmental Member Voting Representatives and Honorary Members in good standing”) who participate in the Online Governmental Consensus Vote from November 8-22 could still determine the amendments’ fate.

Representative Slaughter of Rochester, New York, and Senator Franklin of Minnesota represent the only two areas in the nation that require contractors to prove they’re lead-safe certified firms. Notably, when Minnesota added the requirement, the result was a 30-plus-percent increase in companies applying for EPA lead-safe certification.

There are currently over 500,000 U.S. children under the age of six with blood lead levels higher than 5 micrograms per deciliter (5 µg/dL), the level at which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend treatment for lead exposure.

According to Dr. David Jacobs, NCHH's Chief Scientist, "Lead is […] one of the best studied toxic substances that we know of. It’s one of the metals that you don’t need in your body; it has no useful biological value whatsoever. It creates a range of effects [including] neurodevelopmental effects for children at an early age, but it also causes cancer, kidney disease, and many other adverse health effects."

If NCHH’s proposed amendment can garner enough support during the Online Consensus Vote, it could still become part of the ICC building code. NCHH encourages you, the taxpayers, to contact your local code enforcement to express support for the amendments, which are critically important to lead poisoning prevention.



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