Long-Term Impacts of Lead

Children Raising Hands

The use of lead-based paint was phased out by the EPA as of 1978. Yet, 34 years later, lead remains on surfaces in many aging homes.

Last month, James wrote about the soon-to-be-implemented Philadelphia ordinance requiring rental units to be certified as “lead free” or “lead safe” (read his post here for more details).

Now, here’s another reason to care about lead exposure in homes. Children exposed to lead tend to do worse in school than kids who are not exposed. A Massachusetts case study shows that the concentration of lead in a child’s bloodstream is linked to their academic performance later in life. The research found that the state’s investment in lead abatement led to improved standardized test scores among elementary school students a decade later.

Add this to the research from 2007 linking childhood lead exposure to crime rates. As a poison that targets the nervous system, lead is shown to negatively impact control impulses in children. People that are exposed as youth are more likely to have juvenile and adult criminal records. Earlier studies focused on the impact of car exhaust during the era of leaded gasoline. Now that we’ve cleaned up the air a bit, the focus has shifted to lead paint, which persists especially in low-income communities.

So, starting in December, does this mean that Philadelphia is on its way to a smarter and less violent city? Let’s hope so. It may not be much of a consolation to landlords facing tighter regulations now. But, hey, maybe it’ll pay off next decade when there are fewer broken windows to repair, and property values are soaring in those safe neighborhoods with high-performing city schools. Feel free to share your thoughts on the topic in the comments below, or contact REPSG with any questions about lead exposure and abatement.

EPA RRP (Renovation, Repair, and Painting) News

EPA LogoFor those of you who are not already aware, the EPA’s 2008 lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule is a set of required standards for all building and home contractors who work in buildings that have lead-based paint. The rule requires the use of lead-safe work practices to minimize the possible conditions that can generate a lead hazard during normal RRP activities. Part of the requirement is for contractors and workers to take appropriate classes in lead-safe work practices.

Originally, the law was anticipated to include a requirement for final clearance dust wipe sampling to ensure there is not a lead dust hazard in the area of renovations. However, the EPA backed off of the requirement in 2011, instead favoring a “qualitative” method of having the contractor compare a damp cloth wipe of the renovation area to an “EPA Standard” to determine if they needed to do additional cleaning (the so called “dirty-diaper test”). You can read the EPA’s reasoning for this change in a document titled “Improving Our Regulations: Final Plan for Periodic Retrospective Reviews of Existing Regulations.” The entire EPA document is worth reading, as it addressed other regulatory topics, including drinking water standards, vehicle emissions, TSCA, NPDES, and others. However, the RRP Paragraph is below:

“After carefully weighing the issues and considering the comments from over 300 stakeholders, EPA has determined that there are currently no data or information that call into question the reliability, safety, and efficacy of the lead safe work practices established in the 2008 RRP rule.

Therefore, EPA did not finalize additional “clearance” requirements that contractors obtain lead-dust testing and laboratory analysis of the results for renovation jobs.  EPA believes that if certified and trained renovation contractors follow EPA’s 2008 RRP rule by using lead-safe work practices and following the cleaning protocol after the job is finished, lead-dust hazards will be effectively reduced.”

The RRP Rule has been in effect since April of 2010. However, it was not until April of this year that the EPA announced the first set of enforcement actions against contractors who violated the RRP rule. For those of you counting, that took the agency two years.

The three announced enforcement actions all included fines of at most $10,000, but it has been long suspected that these actions were in the pipeline. The violations cited by the EPA included both the failure of companies to obtain the RRP certification and then subsequent work practices that could have caused a lead hazard. No incidents of elevated lead blood levels were indicated.

The press release regarding the violations is available here.

Have a comment of question regarding the EPA lead RRP? Feel free to leave a comment below or contact me at jromanchek@repsg.com.