EPA Proposes Tougher Limits on Lead Dust in Homes and Childcare Centers

The Biden administration on Wednesday proposed strengthening requirements to remove lead-containing paint dust from homes and daycare centers built before 1978, an effort to eliminate lead exposure that would require millions of property owners to pay abatement fees.

Lead is a neurotoxin and exposure can damage the brain and nervous system, especially in infants and young children.

When completed, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the law could reduce lead exposure for 500,000 young children annually.

“There is no safe level of lead,” said Michal Freedhoff, assistant director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution. “Even slow reductions are detrimental to children’s health, and this proposal would bring us closer to eliminating the dangers of lead paint in homes and child care facilities across the United States.”

The law would not require property owners or child care facilities to test for lead dust. But if a young child shows signs of exposure to lead, through a blood test or other test, it can trigger state and local testing requirements.

Results that confirm the presence of any lead dust may require property owners to pay for cleanup, EPA officials said. “It greatly increases the number of sites that would be required to address paint hazards,” said Ms. Freedhoff.

The rule applies to places regularly used by children 6 years old and younger, including daycare centers, preschools and kindergarten classrooms. Young children are at high risk of exposure due to things like crawling and playing with their hands. Lead poisoning can cause behavioral problems, learning disabilities and decreased measured intelligence.

The federal government banned lead-based paint from residential use in 1978. But the EPA estimates that 31 million homes built before that year contain lead-based paint, 3.8 million of which are home to one or more children under the age of 10. 6.

Many of the buildings subject to the law are older buildings in low-income areas.

Owners of construction businesses and businesses that may be affected said they are concerned about the rising cost of lead dust.

“I don’t want children living in environments with lead,” said Cindy Lehnhoff, director of the National Child Care Association. “But as a company, we are struggling. We only need one thing to produce, making child care impossible and limited.

“The government should come up with funding for this,” he added.

Greg Brown, vice president of the National Apartment Association, which represents apartment owners, said his association wants to cooperate with the government.

“Policymakers must work with these companies to protect the most vulnerable people from being taken advantage of and help provide the necessary resources to fix the risks,” Mr. Brown said in a statement.

But, he added, “The onus cannot be placed on the building owners and operators to solve the problem by testing and renovating.”

The law would not require homeowners to test their homes for paint dust before selling them but if such tests are done, sellers must disclose the results to buyers.

Lead dust occurs when paint is damaged or disturbed. It can remain in the home even after the lead paint is removed, such as after renovation.

Under the law, any type of dust on floors and windows would be “hazardous” and must be reduced, compared to the current “hazardous” limits of 10 micrograms per square foot of floor and 100 micrograms per square foot of windows. .

But if dust is still found after abatement measures, homeowners may not be required to remediate, the EPA said. The amount that would be legally allowed to remain would be much lower than what is currently allowed, the agency said.

Legal changes with effect from May 2021 thoughts and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in response to complaints against the EPA filed by several environmental and health groups.

“This is a step forward in the nation’s long-delayed efforts to eliminate lead exposure in the millions of child care facilities that still have lead-based paint,” said Eve Gartner, director of toxics strategies at Earthjustice, which has represented some of the plaintiffs. those. “Our clients in these cases are grateful and look forward to a speedy conclusion and enforcement of these important laws.”

The rule will be open to public comment for 60 days, after which the EPA can make changes in response to those comments before finalizing it and implementing it next year.

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