In 1978, the new use of lead paint in a variety of structures, including apartments and schools, was banned. Pre-existing lead paint was allowed to remain in place, subject to a variety of requirements designed to warn against the hazards of lead exposure. For the past several years, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ramped up its enforcement efforts through inspections targeted at apartment owners and managers of pre-1978 housing.

Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule

In 2008, EPA issued its Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP Rule) that, effective as of April 1, 2010, will require contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities and schools built before 1978 to be certified through an EPA-approved program and follow specific work practices to prevent lead exposure.  

Proposed Expansion of RRP Rule

The RRP Rule originally provided an exemption from the training and work requirements if the property owner certifies that no child under six and no pregnant woman resides in the subject premises. However, EPA has recently proposed to eliminate that exemption. The proposed RRP Rule revision would also require that after certain renovation, repair, and painting activities are performed, quantitative dust testing must be completed to show that dust-lead levels comply with EPA’s regulatory standards. Notably, going beyond its historical focus on residential structures, EPA is also proposing to impose these requirements for renovations to the exteriors of public and commercial buildings, and possibly even the interiors of these buildings.  

Proposed Expansion of Definition of Lead-Based Paint and Tightening of Allowable Lead Dust Concentrations

In response to a petition submitted to EPA by the National Center for Healthy Housing, the Alliance for Healthy Homes and the Sierra Club, EPA has also recently proposed regulatory changes to (1) expand the definition of “lead-based paint” and (2) tighten the allowable lead concentrations in dust.  

Currently, lead-based paint is defined as paint or other surface coatings that contain lead in excess of 1.0 mg/cm2 or 0.5 % by weight. EPA has issued a draft rule for comment that proposes to redefine lead-based paint as any paint or other surface coating containing at least 0.06 % lead by weight. If adopted, this change could mean that previously exempt properties would have to comply with the RRP and other lead paint rules.

Under present standards, residual lead-containing dust is considered a hazard if the concentration of lead in such dust found on flooring is greater than 40 ug/ft2 or greater than 250 ug/ft2 on window sills. The draft changes would reduce the maximum allowable floor-lead dust standard from 40 ug/ft2 to 10 ug/ft2, and the maximum allowable sill-dust standard would be reduced from 250 ug/ft2 to 100 ug/ft2.

Conclusion  

Owners and managers of residential, commercial, and other structures that were built prior to 1978 need to be aware of these changing standards and take appropriate action to assure compliance with all lead-based paint rules.