EPA New Lead Paint Rules

EPA New Lead Paint Rules

Here it comes! Beginning April 22, Earth Day, the EPA is instituting new rules regarding lead based paint. This will affect homes built before 1978.

Remodeling? Repainting? You must get approval for your work by the Environmental Protection Agency or face fines of up to $37,500 per day.

What are the rules and how do we comply?

Who knows. Federal law will require you or your contractor be certified and to use lead-safe work practices. To become certified, renovation contractors must submit an application and fee payment to EPA. Beginning in April 22, 2010, contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978 must be certified and must follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.

  • NOTE: Contractors and training providers working in Wisconsin, North Carolina or Mississippi must contact the state to find out more about its training and certification requirements. These states are authorized to administer their own RRP (Renovate, Repair, Paint) programs in lieu of the federal program.

Who’s affected? According to the EPA, “Anyone receiving compensation for renovating, repairing, and painting work in residences built before 1978 that disturbs painted surfaces is subject to the new Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP)”.

Why?  To protect children from the effects of lead based paint. I didn’t realize it was such a huge problem. Why have we been able to ignore it for so long? The baby boomers seem, to me, to have survived living through the age of toxic paint in the home.

What will it cost?  The EPA estimates compliance will add an additional $8 to $167 to the cost of an average interior renovation. Seriously? Where did they come up with these numbers? An extra $8? So, we’re to expect that an EPA trained inspector is going to charge only $8 to certify that our home has been renovated to the new code? Nice.

However, according to an article in the Washington Post, contractors estimate that the extra time and effort required for protecting, cleaning and testing construction areas in these homes will add 5 percent to 30 percent in fees on small renovation jobs alone.

What’s included? Almost every renovation:  paint scraping, window replacement, carpet removal (which can disrupt painted trim). So far, only minor interior repairs, less than 6 feet square in size, and exterior repairs smaller than 20 square feet, are exempt. Housing for the elderly and disabled (unless a child younger than 6 lives or will live there) and zero-bedroom dwellings such as efficiency apartments are also exempted from the rule.

At this time, do-it-yourselfers also have an out. The EPA rule applies only to renovations performed by businesses for compensation. Still, the agency recommends that homeowners follow the procedures. The goal is that all the parameters will be determined by April 22.

Problems:  Well, one that might not jump out at first as obvious is that there are not enough trained people to oversee the work.  In fact, there are not enough trainers to train the people who will need to oversee the work.  And, even the trainers, because this is all so new, aren’t really proficient yet. Ugh. Once again, problems with government regulators regulating government regulations.

What do you think?

This post has 8 Comments | Would you like to leave a comment?


  1. Hi, Don:

    “Disturb a painted surface” would be anytime you break the paint – removing/replacing windows, cutting into walls or doors – anytime the paint is broken.

    Naturally, I didn’t tell them anything. I research and report. I do not have the power to create laws, only to follow them.

    And, what I quoted says that exterior repairs smaller than 20 square feet are exempt.

    The post you’re referring to was written in 2010, so the laws may certainly have changed. I appreciate that you are working with local enforcement to be sure your repairs are being done up to code.

    Thank you so much for leaving your comment and I hope your project was a huge success!

  2. Please clarify the exemption phrase “does not disturb a painted surface”
    The city is insisting that it means “all paint”, not the explanation in the HUD Law, p.12 of Definitions, “disturb a painted surface means ———resulting in a lead hazard”.
    They claim you told them that!

    Also, they insist that I hire a certified firm to deal with less than 1 sq. ft. of deteriorated paint on a post connected to an external cement wall that touches the roof overhang.
    They consistently ignore de-minimus areas.

    The excuse is always, “the project is over $25,000”
    Am I not allowed to perform abatement or containment myself on de-minimus areas using lead-safe practices?

  3. I trust the company that painted my home followed these rules.

  4. Thank you, Russell, for reading the post and leaving comments. I hope you’ve signed up to follow my blog and told others, as well.

    I look forward to hearing from you in the future.

  5. Karen: I have heard that comment from some of my “elders” about how they group up with this and that and never got hurt or poisoned or lost a limb, etc. I guess now it’s a problem because Big Brother told us it was.

    I love your blog and insight on important issues.

    Russell Benson

  6. Russell: I so agree. Amazingly, my generation survived. Why do the few who live in homes from my era now need assistance? Guess the government doesn’t have enough places to spend or focus.

  7. Karen, it stinks. Why after all these years is this an issue? Is there a special interest group behind this measure set to make lots of money off this? I guess I must have missed all the news stories of the scores of homeowners and their children that have been hospitalized from lead based paint poisoning.

    Just something else that we will have to deal with.

  8. I don’t want to totally ignore what I’m sure are the real health risks of lead paint – at least if a child peels it off the wall and eats it (that’s the only time I’ve heard that enough gets into the body to cause a problem), but I am one of those who thinks that sometimes governments go a bit too far in protecting us from ourselves. Is this one of those cases?
    Putting aside my scepticism about how dangerous lead paint litter is, I still don’t think I want the government telling me when and how I can paint inside my own house. Every little ruling that governments make might seem sensible when looked at in isolation, I can just hear the committee: “if we only save one child’s life…” But when you put them all together we start to drive up costs/prices and are forgetting that people are responsible for themselves. I’m almost 50 and I am willing to take the risk that if I scrape and repaint my house, regardless of the type of paint already there, I won’t develop any side effects.
    Any doctors out there go ahead and send me studies telling me I’m wrong.

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