$50M EPA Program to Look at Lead Exposure
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed a new $50 million grant program to expand the Trump Administration’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget efforts to protect children in an educational environment.
The Healthy Schools Grant Program will help to support the EPA’s steps toward evaluating and addressing various children’s health risks within learning facilities, including exposure to lead.
History of EPA Lead Paint Standards for Children
Back in 2008, the EPA released the Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule. The RRP (amended in 2010 and 2011) aimed to protect the public from any and all lead-based coating hazards associated with renovation, various repairs and activity. The rule officially went into effect on April 22, 2010.
In 2009, petitioners requested that the EPA provide more adequate protection for children by providing more stringent lead paint standards. By 2011, the EPA acknowledged this need but failed to provide a timetable or made any moves to propose a new rule.
Almost four years after the first rule went into effect, the EPA released Energy Savings Plus Health: Indoor Air Quality Guidelines for School Building Upgrades, a guide providing action plans for 23 building upgrade scenarios that includes assessment protocols and measures to be taken to ensure the safety of children.
The following year, in 2015, the EPA launched a new mobile app that would help to assist schools in performing air quality facility assessments. The School IAQ Assessment app served as a “one-stop-shop” for access to guidance from EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Action Kit. The app was created to provide education centers and school districts with proven strategies for addressing critical building-related environmental health issues such as ventilation; cleaning and maintenance; environmental asthma triggers; radon; and integrated pest management.
In June 2016, the EPA began to crack down on its RRP rule, issuing various lead safety fines to companies who failed to follow federal guidelines for work on houses, child care facilities and kindergartens built before 1978.
“Protecting children’s health is a central part of EPA’s mission,” said Suzanne Bohan, director of EPA’s regional enforcement program.
“EPA is taking a close look at neighborhoods where lead-based paint is a concern by providing residents with information about potential health impacts and making sure contractors are following requirements that reduce exposure in homes.”
By August, petitioners were still dissatisfied and requested that a court rule that the EPA’s delay for a new rule was unreasonable. Following their request, in January 2018 a San Francisco-based federal appeals court ordered the EPA to act within the next 90 days to revise the lead paint standards to better protect children.
In response, on Oct. 11, 2018, now-EPA Chief, Andrew Wheeler, signed a memorandum stating the Reaffirmation of the EPA’s 1995 Policy on Evaluating Health Risks to Children.The document is a reassurance that the EPA and its Office of Children’s Health Protection would be continuing its role in collaborating with states, tribes and local governments to provide solutions to further promote healthy and thriving children and communities.
By late December, Wheeler, along with U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and U.S. Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan, announced the Trump administration’s plan to reduce lead exposure to children.
The “Federal Lead Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Associated Impacts (Lead Action Plan)” aims to be a blueprint for reducing lead exposure and related harm by working with states, local communities, businesses, property owners and parents.
What’s Happening Now
In the Healthy Schools Grant Program, eligible recipients from state and local governments, federally recognized tribal governments and non-profit organizations are able to apply for grant-assistance in tackling their facilities' environmental hazards.
The program is to provide a total of $50 million for education centers to help identify, prevent, reduce and resolve various environmental hazards including:
“Protecting children’s health is a top priority for EPA, and this new funding would help school’s address poor and deteriorating conditions that can harm children’s health and stymie academic progress,” said Wheeler.
“This grant program would help schools, especially those in underserved communities, reduce exposures to environmental hazards, create healthier learning environments and ensure children can reach their fullest potential.”