EPA Announces New Lead Paint Enforcement
At the beginning of the month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to hold property management companies (PMCs) responsible for lead-based paint safety requirements.
The notice intends to improve compliance and strengthen enforcement of the lead-based paint Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) as they apply to PMCs that perform, offer or claim to perform regulated renovations without certification from the EPA in pre-1978 housing or child-occupied facilities.
“Health impacts from exposure to lead-based paint continue to be a significant problem in the United States, particularly in underserved and overburdened communities,” said Larry Starfield, Acting Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Through this proposed action, the EPA will improve compliance with the RRP Rule in rental properties managed by property management companies and protect tenants from lead exposure.”
On Nov. 4, the EPA published the notice in the Federal Register. However, to hold PMCs accountable for the lead-based paint safety requirements, the EPA must first withdraw previously published answers to two Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) concerning property management companies and their compliance responsibilities under the TSCA and RRP rule.
The intention to remove the FAQs answers was included in the Nov. 4 notice. There, the EPA explains its rationale for the withdrawal, in addition to the circumstances where PMCs are required to obtain certification from the EPA and ensure that renovations in the homes they manage are performed by certified firms and employees trained to use lead-safe work practices.
“Everyone, regardless of where they live, deserves to be safe from the hazards of lead-based paint,” said Michal Freedhoff, Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Holding property management companies accountable for the same lead safe work practices that other firms are held to is an important step towards ensuring all communities are protected from the dangerous health effects of lead.”
According to the EPA, this measure is especially important to underserved and overburdened communities, which often include a high proportion of rental housing managed by PMCs, and the military community, where family housing is also often managed by PMCs.
Following the public’s 30-day comment period, the EPA plans to post a memorandum that states whether the withdrawal will take effect as planned, on March 19, 2022.
Lead Standards, Safety Measures
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 RRP rule protects residents of pre-1978 homes from lead-based paint disturbed during renovation, repair or painting activities. The rule requires that firms that perform or offer to perform renovations in pre-1978 houses need to be certified by the EPA and assign individuals who have been trained to use lead-safe work practices; disclose important safety information to residents prior to the work; and document their compliance with the rule.
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.
By June 2018, the EPA released another proposal to the dust-lead hazard standards; the action was stemmed from a December 2017 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which ruled that the agency must reevaluate the risks from lead paint.
According to the EPA, lead-contaminated dust from chipped or peeling lead-based paint in homes built prior to 1978 presents one of the most common causes of elevated blood lead levels in children. Infants and children are especially vulnerable to lead paint exposure because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do, and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
The June proposal was reportedly in response to a lawsuit filed in August 2016 against the EPA by a coalition of environmental and community-led organizations, who charged that the EPA had duties to uphold regarding the TSCA and its amendments contained in the Paint Hazard Act.
In June 2019, former EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson announced new standards for lead, specifically found in dust on floors, windowsills and miscellaneous surfaces to protect children from its harmful effects.
To continue to protect children’s health and make progress on the dust-lead issue, the EPA lowered the dust-lead hazard standards from 40 micrograms of lead per square foot to 10 micrograms per square foot on floors and from 250 micrograms to 100 micrograms on windowsills.
The new standard applies to all inspections, risk assessments and abatement activities in various hospitals, childcare facilities, certain schools and housing built before 1978.
In January of this year, the final rule to lower the clearance levels for the amount of lead that can remain in dust on floors and windowsills after lead abatement was approved and the new standards were incorporated into the Section 402/404 lead-based paint activity regulations as well as the Section 1018 real estate disclosure regulations.
More recently, in October, the EPA announced that it had launched a new training initiative, Enhancing Lead-Safe Work Practices through Education and Outreach, in Southern California communities.
The new program aims to raise awareness about childhood lead exposure and protect environmentally overburdened and underserved communities across the nation from lead exposure. The initiative arrives in accordance with the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to advancing environmental justice.
The two-pronged approach to reducing lead exposure includes the following initiatives:
In launching the program in Southern California, the EPA reports that new trainings will be held in Los Angeles and San Diego counties.
The EPA adds, however, that both RRP trainings and Lead Awareness Curriculum Train-the-Trainer sessions are currently available in the following communities as well: Albuquerque, New Mexico; the Bismark-Mandan, North Dakota area; Hartford, Connecticut; Los Angeles County, California; Miami; Peoria, Illinois; Reading, Pennsylvania; San Juan, Puerto Rico; San Diego County, California; Boise, Idaho; and Trenton, New Jersey.
These communities reportedly reflect the diversity of the U.S., have known lead exposure issues and demonstrated a need for RRP certified contractors.