Unruly Lead Paint Rule

by Angela Logomasini on July 31, 2012 · 3 comments

in Environment, Features, Precaution & Risk, Regulation

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform recently released an interesting report on regulatory impediments to job creation. Among the items discussed is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standard related to remodeling homes that contain lead-based paint. The standard requires contractors to test pre-1978-built homes for lead paint and then apply certain safety practices if they find it. It also requires contractors to take classes and gain certifications to work in homes with lead paint. A provision originally allowed homeowners with no children or pregnant women in the home to opt-out of testing, etc., but the Obama EPA eliminated that provision even though lead only poses risks to children under six who are exposed to relatively high amounts over a period of time.

There are many problems with the standard, but perhaps the most obnoxious is the fact that it encourages people to either break the law by hiring non-certified contractors or to avoid using professionals altogether. Accordingly, rather than improve safety, it simply harms small businesses that are working hard to be good citizens by complying with the law. The Committee report explains:

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) adds that the removal of the opt-out provision “ha[s] led homeowners to explore using ‘underground’ contractors that do not comply with the EPA’s requirements at all.” Indeed, a survey conducted by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry shows that 77 percent of homeowners are avoiding the rule by doing remodeling work on their own, or hiring a non-certified contractor to perform the work. Therefore, the rule may be increasing the risk of exposure to lead paint, as well as negatively affecting certified contractors’ ability to compete. As evidence, the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association states that “legitimate businesses complying with the LRRP rule cannot compete for much needed work against non-compliant contractors that, ironically, lack the training to actually perform lead-safe renovations and prevent lead hazard exposures.” The Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy comments that “[r]eform of the expensive requirements of the current LRRP rule continues to be one of the highest priorities of the small business community.” This is unsurprising as the opt-out provision had saved the industry approximately $500 million in compliance costs.

Image credit: Tall Chris on Flickr.

Greg Myers August 8, 2012 at 8:23 am

The problem I see with this study is that to reflect that the opt-out provision of the Renovation, Remodeling and Painting rule is costing the industry $500,000,000.00 is baseless unless they are all violating the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Lead in Construction standard 29 CFR 1926.62. Employers are obligate to protect their employees and other trades on that job site. The opt-out provision gave them permission to poison the client, but not their employees or other trade persons. The OSHA lead in the paint level is even more stringent than the RRP rule. OSHA’s formula for lead in paint is about 500 parts per million or 0.05 % by dry weight where it would be very difficult to expose an employee above the Action Level of 30 micrograms per cubic meter. Compare to the requirement of 0.5% percent by dry weight or 5,000 parts per million which triggers the RRP rule.

To say that lead-based paint only effect children 6 years and younger is not a true statement, and they need to review the research which shows it is a cause of memory loss, cancer, high blood pressure, kidney damage, reproductive problems, behavioral problems, nerual problems, miscarriages, still births, birth defects, etc. All these organizations need to do is look at the OSHA 29 CFR 1929.62 Appendix A, to see what health effects it causes to adults. But, from my experience of teaching safety courses since the late 1980′s, most small companies, and evidently trade organizations do not know about the lead in construction standard either.

When I ask students and trainings if they have had a blood lead test, it is responded by less than 2% of the students. The blood test is not even the best test, because it only looks and 6-8 weeks with some accuracy. When I ask how many have had a HEPA vacuum since 1993 as required by OSHA, I just get the deer in the headlight look.

These remodeling contractors, as with any business are going to encounter unethical personnel and organizations, and regretfully this is why rules are created. If everybody was ethical, not greedy and would never harm anybody we would not need regulations, but as we should all know this is not the case.

Wayne E. Amacher August 10, 2012 at 1:05 am

This appeared on the Check4Lead.com website today:

The original on the Office of the Inspector General’s website is at:

+++++++++++ From the Inspector General’s Office ++++++++++++++++
Although EPA stated that its economic analysis underwent extensive intra-Agency review and was approved by the Office of Management Budget prior to publication, EPA used limited data to develop its cost and benefit estimates for the Lead Rule. We did not conclude that EPA violated policies or failed to follow requirements in conducting its analysis. Rather, EPA conducted its economic analysis under time pressures and subsequently used its discretion to complete its analysis using some limited data and approaches. EPA’s economic analyses were limited in that:

• The estimated cleaning and containment work practice costs to comply with the rule were not based on a statistically valid survey.

• EPA did not quantitatively analyze or include other costs outlined in Agency guidance, such as costs due to increased consumer prices, costs of unemployment, and costs to markets indirectly affected by the rule.

• EPA did not include the cost to renovation businesses of securing
additional liability insurance.

• EPA recommended additional work practices in a training program that,while not required by the rule, would likely result in additional cost because the regulated community would view these practices as required.

Further, an EPA science advisory committee reported that limitations in the Agency’s data for estimating intelligence quotient changes in children exposed to lead dust during renovations would not adequately support a rigorous cost benefit analysis. In our opinion, the data limitations in EPA’s analyses limit the reliability of the rule’s stated cost and benefits. In public rulemaking documents, EPA acknowledged several of the limitations. EPA’s obligation under terms of a settlement agreement to issue the Lead Rule by March 2008, the use of discretion in conducting the economic analysis, and EPA’s subsequent assumption that the costs of the rule were low limited EPA’s approach in estimating the cost and benefits of the rule.
+++++++++ End +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

If those of us who are affected by the cost of the RRP the rule are on our toes, every contractor and rental owner should follow up and send letters and emails of support to their Congressperson, copied to the Office of the Inspector General in support. This should result in thousands letters of support to the Inspector General’s Office, OIG_Hotline@epa.gov
I have not met a contractor yet who is in favor of the rule. In my experience very few are complying. Contractor’s web sites have hundreds of comments almost exclusively, if not exclusively against this rule. There are, however a few contractor’s, that are using scare tactics, taking advantage of the rule to make more money.

Now, I am not against containing lead dust in a cost effective and meaningful way. I believe that it can be done by educating the public and by contractors and landlords using reasonable, unenforced, rational means. I am very much against the government hiring a needless budget busting corps of agents to enforce the rule.

The RRP rule is the most concise, nitpicking, absurd rule I have ever read. It is far too lengthy for anyone to successively comply. It’s like setting a speed limit where you must always s drive between 64.99 and 65.10 MPH or you get a ticket, i.e., impossible. lt is enough red tape to cover the Pacific Ocean. I really don’t want my government doing absurd costly things like the lead rule. The rule is way overkill for the problem.

Let’s all get off our butts and make our congresspersons aware of this change of events. It’s important. It’s fun writing to your congresspersons, sometimes you even get a personal reply. This is a big break for us who want to see the law changed. Let your contractor friends know about this too.

Here is a list of congresspersons and federal government officials. Please take action this is an opportunity that may not repeat itself:


Please write. Note: write up your comments first in Word or Notebook and then paste them into each congressperson’s website email form. The Congressperson’s form disappears after you send it.

Don’t worry about your writing ability. A letter written in crayon on ruled paper might get more attention than a concise well crafted letter.


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