EPA Proposes Improving Lead Paint Standards

FRIDAY, JULY 14, 2023

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced a proposal to strengthen requirements for the removal of lead-based paint hazards to protect against childhood lead exposure. These abatement activities, if finalized, are estimated to reduce the lead exposures of approximately 250,000 to 500,000 children under age six per year.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is taking a whole-of-government approach to ensuring that the most vulnerable among us—our children—are protected from exposure to lead,” said EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe.

“This proposal to safely remove lead paint along with our other efforts to deliver clean drinking water and replace lead pipes will go a long way toward protecting the health of our next generation of leaders.”

About the Rule

According to the release, if finalized, the proposed rule would strengthen the EPA’s regulations under section 402 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by revising the dust-lead hazard standards (DLHS), which identify hazardous lead in dust on floors and window sills, and the dust-lead clearance levels (DLCL), the amount of lead that can remain in dust on floors, window sills and window troughs after lead removal activities.

The proposal would reduce the DLHS from 10 micrograms per square foot (µg/ft2) for floors and 100 µg/ft2 for window sills to any reportable level greater than zero in recognition of the fact that there is no level of lead in dust that has been found to be safe for children.

Additionally, the rule would lower the DLCL from 10 µg/ft2 to 3 µg/ft2 for floors, from 100 µg/ft2 to 20 µg/ft2 for window sills and from 400 µg/ft2 to 25 µg/ft2 for window troughs, which are the lowest post-abatement dust-lead levels that the agency believes can be reliably and effectively achieved.

“There is no safe level of lead. Even low levels are detrimental to children’s health, and this proposal would bring us closer to eradicating lead-based paint hazards from homes and child care facilities across the U.S. once and for all,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff.

Property owners, lead-based paint professionals and government agencies reportedly use the DLHS to identify dust-lead hazards in residential and childcare facilities built before 1978. If a lead-based paint activity such as abatement is performed, the EPA's Lead-Based Paint Activities Program requires individuals and firms performing the abatement to be certified and follow specific work practices.

Following abatement, testing is then required to ensure dust lead levels are below the DLCL before an abatement can be considered complete.

Historically, the EPA reports that the DLHS and DLCL have been set at the same levels. However, the latest action proposes to decouple the DLHS and the DLCL, which were last updated in 2019 and 2021, respectively.

The agency adds that this is being done in accordance with a May 2021 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion, which explains that DLHS must be based solely on health factors, while the DLCL must consider the additional factors of safety, effectiveness and reliability.

Although the federal government banned lead-based paint for residential use in 1978, the agency estimates that 31 million pre-1978 houses still contain lead-based paint, and 3.8 million of them have one or more children under the age of 6 living there.

The EPA will accept public comments on the proposal for 60 days following publication via docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2023-0231.

The EPA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also plan on hosting a virtual public workshop in October to hear stakeholder perspectives on specific topics related to low levels of lead in existing paint. The topics include the potential health effects, the relationship between lead-based paint and dust-lead, possible exposure pathways, as well as technologies for detection, measurement, and characterization of low levels of lead in paint.

Additionally, the EPA and HUD are interested in any available information on lead-based paint characteristics and medical evidence related to low levels of lead in paint. These departments will use information shared during the workshop to inform their joint effort to revisit the federal definition of lead-based paint and revise it, if necessary.

Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan

At the end of 2021, the White House released its Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan as part of the bipartisan infrastructure law, to deliver clean drinking water, replace lead pipes and remediate lead paint. The goal of the plan is to replace all lead pipes in the next decade.

According to the White House, at the time, approximately 10 million American households and 400,000 schools land childcare centers are served by a lead service line or pipe. About 24 million housing units have lead-based paint hazards, which reportedly 4 million of house young children.

The plan, according to the White House Fact Sheet, features 15 new actions with more than 10 federal agencies. These actions are divided into three categories: getting resources to communities; updating rules and strengthening enforcement; and reducing exposure in disadvantaged communities, schools, daycare centers and public housing, including:

  • Announcing $2.9 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure law for lead pipe replacement to states, tribes and territories;
  • Committing to issue national bipartisan infrastructure law water investments guidance to states;
  • Clarifying state, local and tribal governments can use fiscal recovery funds—the $350 billion aid provided under the American Rescue Plan—for replacing lead service lines and protecting communities against lead in water;
  • Establishing regional technical assistance hubs to fast track lead service line removal projects;
  • Awarding grants to protect children and families from lead paint and home health hazards;
  • Leveraging existing U.S. Department of Agriculture funding to replace lead service lines;
  • Directing federal agencies to leverage existing funding;
  • Announcing the development of a new regulation to protect communities from lead in drinking water;
  • Committing to publish new guidance on lead service lines;
  • Closing gaps in childhood lead testing;
  • Tracking the benefits of lead pipe and paint investments in line with Justice40;
  • Committing to remove lead service lines and paint hazards in housing;
  • Releasing an updated strategy to reduce lead exposure; and
  • Establishing a new cabinet level partnership for lead remediation in schools and daycare centers.

The Cabinet Level Partnership for Lead Remediation in Schools and Childcare Centers will include partnerships between the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA.

In terms of funding, in addition to the $350 billion provided in the American Rescue Plan, the White House is investing:

  • $15 billion of direct funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for lead service line replacements at EPA through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF), and an additional $11.7 billion in SRF funding for which lead pipes replacement is eligible;
  • $9 billion in the Build Back Better Act for lead remediation grants to disadvantaged communities through the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN) program, including for schools and childcare centers at EPA;
  • $1 billion in the Build Back Better Act for rural water utilities to remove lead pipes at the USDA;
  • $5 billion in the Build Back Better Act for the mitigation and removal of lead-based paint, lead faucets and fixtures, and other housing-related health hazards in low-income households, by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); and
  • $65 billion of Build Back Better Act funding for public housing agencies and $5 billion for other federally-assisted housing preservation and rehabilitation, which public housing agencies and owners can use to improve housing quality; this can include replacing lead pipes and privately-owned service lines.

The White House states that low-income people and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to the risks of lead-contaminated drinking water, including Non-Hispanic Black people being more than twice as likely as Non-Hispanic White people to live in moderately or severely substandard housing.

The EPA’s 2021 Economic Analysis on the benefits of lead service line replacement showed significant increases in lifetime earnings, associated with avoided intelligence quotient (IQ) loss in children, as well as reduced risks of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and other adverse health effects.


Tagged categories: Environmental Controls; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); EPA; Good Technical Practice; Government; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Lead; Lead; Lead paint abatement; Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (LRRP); Lead rule; Maintenance + Renovation; NA; North America; Paint and coatings removal; Paint Exposures; Paint Removal; Permissible exposure limits; Program/Project Management; Regulations

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.