New lead based paint laws come with huge fines.

Graphic depicting Lead Based Paint Warning signContractors now have to be certified in lead based paint to work on homes built before 1978.

There are some laws which were actually passed a couple of years ago that are going into  effect this year, that will drastically affect the home remodeling and home sales business. The law was initially passed April 22, 2008 but it did not go into effect until April 22 of 2010. It is found in section 402(c)(3) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). What it does is establish harsh penalties for contractors who renovate homes built prior to 1978, unless they are certified in the handling of lead based paint. This includes painting and other minor repairs. The penalties for non-compliance are huge and contractors found in violation of the rule after October 1, 2010 could be fined up to  $37,500.00 per day! As the bill penetrated the public awareness, various home building lobbies got involved and the law has been softened a little and contractors must now register for the certification classes by Sept, 30 2010, to be in compliance, and will have until December 31, 2010 to complete the training. But if they are caught working without certification after Oct. 1, 2010 and they cannot prove that they have already registered for the training, they can be fined.

What’s at stake?

The basis for these laws is the fact that in the US nearly a million children have elevated amounts of lead in their systems and it causes profound developmental issues. For years you would hear inspectors, Realtors, property managers and other industry professionals say “just don’t eat the paint chips”, and minimize the danger. The common belief was that if you paint over it that would encapsulate the lead based paint and the problem would be solved. Unfortunately it’s not that simple. Lead can wick its way to the surface through latex paint and it forms a powder which the painters call “chalk” on the surface of the repainted home and can be absorbed by babies. It takes only a small amount to cause pretty considerable damage. The other issue is that when renovation is done frequently lead that is buried below the surface is released as dust into the home and it can lurk in carpet, draperies, on the ceiling and in the corners. So if a real concerted effort to clean is not made, there can be lead in the room long after the contractors leave. It can also be found in  the soil around the house, where toddlers frequently play. There are products which will encapsulate lead if used correctly but they are not just paint. Lead Lock is a product that works and is sanctioned by the EPA.

The EPA has published a list of the certified contractors in your area. If you follow this link and put in your zip code you will get a list of local certified contractors. The state of Georgia also has a list

Are there any exceptions to the new rules?

There are some exceptions to this rule but the rule has been tightening and was revised again on July 7 of this year. Initially if you were willing to state that the home was not occupied by children under the age of 6 you wouldn’t have to necessarily use a certified LBP contractor. They have recently removed this exception to the rule, and their explanation of why can be found here.

Another exception to the rule is if the home was inspected by a certified lead based paint inspector and was found to be free of lead based paint, the contractor does not have to be certified. There is a list of approved lead paint inspectors in Georgia found here. The states are responsible for regulating the licensing of the inspectors and the lead based paint abatement specialists. The EPA will also certify them and has some who are approved listed on their site but the various states have their own lists. The Environmental Protection Division (EPD) of the Department of Natural Resources is Georgia’s environmental protection and regulatory agency.

The next exception to the rule is if you are doing the renovation yourself. Homeowners are not required to become certified in lead based paint removal, but it is important to realize the insidious nature of lead based paint. Even though you may not have small children lead will affect adults also. Elevated amounts of lead in your system can cause reproductive problems, muscle and joint pain, memory problems, hypertension and high blood pressure. Also the dust can linger in your home and children who visit can pick up dangerous amounts of lead in one visit. If you are doing the renovation yourself the EPA has a guide to help you renovate in a safe manner if you might have lead based paint.

There are testing devices that have been approved by the EPA when used by a certified abatement specialist, a certified inspector or a certified contractor. They can be ordered on line here.

Comments

  1. says

    I usually hate it when the government pokes their nose in places it doesn’t belong but lead is very dangerous, it shouldn’t be used in the paint in our homes.

  2. says

    It’s unfortunate that this hazard wasn’t discovered earlier. Lead paint has a deleterious affect on the human body. Lead contamination in children can cause a conglomeration of health problems. Headaches, hearing problems, brain damage and behavioral problems are just a few that can impact children. In adults, being around too much lead paint can cause a wide spectrum of medical conditions including hypertension, reproductive problems, memory loss, digestive ailments and joint and muscle pain.

  3. says

    Interesting new law. Sounds like it should hurt the value of homes built before 1978.

    If I own a home built before 1978 is it possible to get all of the old paint removed and have it certified clean for future renovations?

    • Dan Connolly says

      It definitely is possible, just find a certified lead based paint specialist in your area!

  4. says

    I understand the dangers of lead paint but this new law seems put in place by special interest to further complicate a fairly basic process of painting a home. This reminds me a bit of the laws that govern the removal of Asbestos. We were renovating our home and when we pulled up flooring in the kitchen we found another layer of flooring made os Asbestos. The clean up on a section no more than 10X10 cost 1,000 and looked like we had space invaders in our home.

    • Dan Connolly says

      When I researched this I was struck at how little I knew about lead based paint poisoning and the effects of lead. It is amazing how much damage it can do with a small amount in a short time. Also it affects adults as well as children!
      I think that it’s a good thing. Unfortunately the fact that the contractors are educated in how to safely paint doesn’t really mean that there is any guarantee that they wont take short cuts and skip some of the steps when it’s time to paint.

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