Under the new rules, workers must follow lead-safe work practice standards to reduce potential exposure to dangerous levels of lead during renovation and repair activities.
"While there has been a dramatic decrease over the last two decades in the number of children affected by lead-poisoning, EPA is continuing its efforts to take on this preventable disease," said James Gulliford, EPA's assistant administrator for prevention, pesticides and toxic substances.
"Today's new rules will require contractors to be trained and to follow simple but effective lead-safe work practices to protect children from dangerous levels of lead," he said.
The "Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Program" rule, which will take effect in April 2010, prohibits work practices creating lead hazards.
The rule covers all homes where children under six and pregnant mothers reside. The new requirements apply to renovation, repair or painting activities where more than six square feet of lead-based paint is disturbed in a room or where 20 square feet of lead-based paint is disturbed on the exterior.
The affected contractors include builders, painters, plumbers and electricians. Trained contractors must post warning signs, restrict occupants from work areas, contain work areas to prevent dust and debris from spreading, conduct a thorough cleanup, and verify that cleanup was effective.
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer says the new rules do not go far enough to protect pregnant women and children.
A California Democrat who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Boxer said, “Once again, EPA has disregarded the advice of its scientific panel, and as a result, our children are not protected as they should be from the ravages of lead, which include diminished intelligence, learning disabilities, and other harmful health effects."
"Requiring contractors to be certified and trained in dealing with lead paint is a step forward, but EPA failed to require reliable testing to ensure that children and pregnant women are safe after lead remediation is complete," said Boxer, adding, "I plan to introduce legislation that addresses the concerns of the EPA’s scientific advisory committee.”
Lead is a toxic metal that was used for many years in paint and was banned for residential use in the United States in 1978.
Exposure to lead can result in health concerns for both children and adults. Children under six years of age are most at risk because their developing nervous systems are especially vulnerable to lead's effects and because they are more likely to ingest lead due to their more frequent hand-to-mouth behavior.
Almost 38 million homes in the United States contain some lead-based paint, and today's new requirements are key components of a comprehensive effort to eliminate childhood lead poisoning.
To foster adoption of the new measures, the EPA plans to conduct an extensive education and outreach campaign to promote awareness of these new requirements.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.