New Lead Paint Rules Take Effect

Effective immediately, new <"">lead paint rules are in effect. According to The Baltimore Sun, those renovating homes built prior to 1978 in the United States must now hire a contractor who is certified in the handling of lead-based paint. The new federal rule is geared toward reducing lead exposure and poisoning in children.

A lead ban in paint was put in place in 1978 and, since, the number of children poisoned by the dangerous metal has decreased; however, the <"">Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—the agency that imposed the rule—said that despite the drop, a million children are still impacted annually, wrote The Baltimore Sun.

A known neurotoxin, lead exposure can cause brain and nervous system damage in children and fetuses. The toxin also causes behavioral and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems, headaches, mental and physical retardation, and behavioral and other health problems. Of particular concern is the developing brain because negative influences can have long-lasting effects and can continue well into puberty and beyond. Lead is known to cause cancer and reproductive harm and, in adults, can damage the nervous system. In high doses, lead poisoning can cause seizure, coma, and death. Once poisoned by lead, no organ system is immune; experts agree that there is no safe level of lead.

An awareness campaign has been implemented by the EPA and others and is geared to homeowners, schools, and other building owners and seeks broader understanding of the impact of lead poisoning and clarity of the new rule, said The Baltimore Sun. “Lead is a dangerous, toxic substance that needs to be treated that way,” said Ruth Ann Norton, executive director of the Baltimore-based National Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, quoted The Baltimore Sun. “The key is to make sure homeowners are aware. When you have contractors working on your house, you need to check for certification and pay attention that there is proper cleanup,” Norton added.

Norton explained that the dangerous heavy metal can remain on hands and clothes and can also be ingested or inhaled.

Previously, federal rules mandated property owners advise buyers and renters about known instances of lead paint; however, this is the first time homeowners have been mandated to comply with rules, said The Baltimore Sun, which noted that, according to the National Association of Home Builders some 8.4 million renovation jobs could be affected by the new rule annually.

Some contractors are concerned, complaining that the government has not authorized sufficient trainers, resulting in a dearth of authorized, certified contractors, said The Baltimore Sun. According to The Baltimore Sun, “One person per company has to pay $300 to take a day-long class,” and a certified worker must be on-site at the job’s inception to ensure processes are appropriately followed and, again, at the end, to conduct a “swipe test” for surface lead.

The EPA will not delay implementation of the rule and, of note, expected about 125,000 contractors to be certified by the rule’s implementation, which is about 75,000 short of what was originally hoped for, said The Baltimore Sun. Violations will cost contractors $37,500 per incident, said The Baltimore Sun and, for now, enforcement of the rule will be handled via tips and complaints, an issue for activists who hope for more stringent oversight.

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