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EPA Lead Paint Law

For those of you who don’t know, a federal EPA lead paint law went into effect last April, and was then amended after the fact. The law now basically states that any pre-1978 structure containing lead-based paint cannot be renovated, remodeled or otherwise worked on unless performed by an EPA-trained and certified lead-based paint disturber. This new rule is called The Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule.

The law had some exceptions that lessened the blow to homeowners and contractors. It states that any structure built before lead-based paint was banned in 1978 could opt out of this new stipulation if it could guarantee that no pregnant women or children under the age of six reside in the home, or that the facility is not being used in service to these individuals (in other words, no daycare centers, schools, etc.).

Naturally, that meant that a majority of renovations taking place around the nation in 30-year-old structures could proceed as planned, since so many were not schools, day care centers, pediatric practices or the homes of pregnant women or small children.

However, the EPA removed this opt-out clause during the first week of May, and now any professional working on a structure built before 1978 is subject to fines of up to $30,000 per day if they don’t comply with the new RRP Rule by becoming a trained and certified professional, as well as follow all of the lead-based paint disturbing rules.

Yes, it’s great that the EPA is trying to protect people from over-exposure to lead-based paint, which really can cause serious health risks. But to what extent?

At this point, anyone who owns a structure over 32 years old will be faced with outrageous renovation costs should they ever decide to repair or remodel any part of their home or business. The costs of training and excessive practices will be very high for contractors, not to mention anything deemed as noncompliance on their part will be met with stiff monetary penalties. So, really, remodeling professionals will either be charging huge sums of money to work on structures that contain lead-based paint, or they just won’t bother putting their business at risk in the first place.

What’s even more aggravating to contractors is that many of them have been removing lead-based paint safely for decades now without being ordered to. The difference is that now it will cost them a lot more to complete such a project because of the extra training and steps required to comply with the EPA.

If this new law is to stay in place and not cause further damage to the construction market, the opt-out option needs to be reinstated. If the people at higher risk for health problems are not present, there’s no reason why construction cannot resume as usual. In all likelihood, the people who are exposed to the most lead-based paint are the professionals who work with it every day, so they’re likely to be taking reasonable precautions anyway, EPA rules or not.

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