Friday, July 9, 2010

EPA Makes Us LESS Safe From Lead

The EPA has sun-set the opt out provision for "Lead: Renovation, Repair, and Painting" rule. That means that even folks who aren't pregnant nor have children will have to comply with the added expense of extra preparation, clean-up and recordkeeping requirements that the EPA has imposed. The NAHB is suing.

This from the article:

Remodelers’ and other contractors’ estimates of the additional costs associated with the lead-safe work practices average about $2,400, but vary according to the size and type of job. For example, a complete window replacement requires the contractor to install thick vinyl sheeting to surround the work area both inside the home and outdoors – with prep time and material costs adding an estimated $60 to $170 for each window.

“Consumers trying to use rebates and incentive programs to make their homes more energy efficient will likely find those savings eaten up by the costs of the rule’s requirements. Worse, these costs may drive many consumers – even those with small children - to seek uncertified remodelers and other contractors. Others will likely choose to do the work themselves – or not do it at all – to save money. That does nothing to protect the population this rule was designed to safeguard,” Jones said.

Folks, as you know, we're a big proponent of lead-safe work practices. We really encourage do-it-yourselfers to get certified and to learn about how to work with lead paint safely. I STRONGLY urge folks to learn about this, especially because you can so easily and cheaply decrease or eliminate current and future exposure risks once you stop freaking out and learn a little bit.

The problem, in my view, has been two-fold; Hysteria ("ACK! My house has lead paint! We're all going to get brain damage!"), and excessive regulation (eliminating op-outs and lowering tolerance levels for environmental lead). In real life, where people have to make and take calculated risks and when people have limited resources, excessive regulation or the threat of massively expensive mandated remediation is counter productive. In the real world, the perfect is the enemy of the good. As public policy, excessive regulation of lead paint and work practices in such places makes us LESS safe.


Because people of limited means (the types who more often live in older buildings with lead paint) will be more likely hire a fly-by-night/rip-it-out-by-night contractor to evade regulation. This means that there's a greater likelihood for lead dust to be released not only in the home but in the neighborhood. Or folks are going to ignore the risks and do the project themselves, subjecting their home and neighborhood to the same risks.

We don't need a perfectly lead-free environment right now. What we need is for folks to be able to decrease the amount of environmental lead in a reasonably safe manner and we need for folks who are most at risk to be most protected. If folks can't afford to do the work, it won't get done and the lead hazard will remain. If folks evade unreasonable regulation, work can exacerbate the lead hazard to themselves and innocents around them.

We need reasonable tolerance levels on lead clearance tests and we need reasonable regulation that is likely to have compliance. Otherwise, all the regulators are going to do is sound good and and increase the number of lead poisoned children.


Todd - Home Construcction & Improvement said...

Well said. I've been writing about this topic for months now and I really feel for some of the folks that this law is affecting.

You hit the head on the nail about how will be hit the hardest. The folks that want to replace old drafty windows may find themselves unable to do so now. The small contractor who can't afford to comply will likely stop working on older homes.

I sure wish I had an idea on how to make it all better.

Esoteric Wench said...

I cannot tell you how much I agree with you. Thanks for posting.