The EPA has issued new regulations for lead-based paint beginning April, 2010. The regulations apply to anyone who hires or is paid to renovate, repair or disturb lead-based paint in a home or child occupied facility. This specifically includes community managers, painters, electricians, drywallers, and plumbers. Homeowners working on their own homes are not included. The regulations require that renovations involving lead need to be performed by an EPA Certified Firm using Certified Renovators or employees trained and supervised by a Certified Renovator.
Lead was used as a paint additive for hundreds of years. Lead is toxic to humans and in the 1960’s and 1970 it was mostly phased out and banned from use in residential homes. After 1978, it was almost never used in housing. Currently about 35% of homes contain lead with fewer homes having lead in areas that are likely to be disturbed. It is estimated that less than 5% of townhomes have lead and 10% of condos, but at least 40% of rental housing contains lead based paint. The condos that do have lead are often former apartment buildings that underwent a conversion.
If lead is present in a home, it typically does not have to be removed unless it is being disturbed.
If you have lead-based paint on your walls and woodwork, but it is sealed with more recent coats of paint from the 1980’s and 1990’s, you probably do not have to worry about it. However, if the paint is peeling, cracking, flaking, etc, it can be health hazard worth addressing. A common source of lead poisoning is caused by windows. Old wood windows frequently contain lead-based paint. When they slide up and down, the sides of the windows rub against each other creating dust. The dust can be invisible yet contain high concentrations of lead. This dust may get on the children’s hands and be ingested or inhaled. Lead is harmful to adults but particularly dangerous to children.
Lead poisoning and the new regulations are very important to community managers and homeowner associations (HOA’s). The new EPA regulations explicitly include community managers and by implication self-managed HOA’s that hire a contractor. They have liability exposure if they do not follow these regulations. The new regulations also enumerate fines up to $32,000 per day for violations.
The new regulations will increase the cost of renovations that disturb lead, but they will also increase the safety for occupants and renovators. Even if a home is pre-1978, renovations may be affordable.
The first step in any renovation is to determine the age of the structure. If it is post-1978, lead is not a concern. If it is pre-1978, the next question is whether lead will be disturbed in the process. This likely will involve testing the surfaces that will be affected. All testing must be done by an EPA certified renovator. A certified renovator is able to ascertain if there is lead, whether it will be disturbed, and what precautions need to be taken. Many projects on pre-1978 homes will NOT require additional work beyond testing.
If the project does contain lead, lead-safe practices need to be followed. The regulations specify that the work be done by a Certified Renovator or workers trained and supervised by a Certified Renovator. The regulations require specific notification requirements to residents, dust control, warning signs, specific clean up requirements and testing. Additionally, many practices are now prohibited like sanding, grinding, planing, needle gunning, blasting and other activities that create large amounts of dust. After completion the Certified Renovator must prepare and deliver test results to the owners and maintain records for 3 years. These regulations are available at www.epa.gov/lead.
How do you know when to worry about lead? Screen your property carefully. Do not perform any construction, renovation, rehabbing, repairs, etc. on any property that is pre-1978 unless you have a certified professional involved. Fines for doing so can be as high as $32,000 per day and the health concerns are even more important.
CAI Past President, Member of Vision Awards Committee and Membership Committee.
BBB, MMHA, BATC, IREM and EPA Certified Renovator