Jun 26

A valid question asked in response to the AASEW’s EPA comments:

Thanks for these comments. You devote a lot of energy to criticizing the rule. Given the health problems caused by lead-based paint, what kind of rule should the EPA write? Let me know, and thanks.

My reply (edited to remove at least a few of my many typos):

The very short version

Everyone who works on older housing should receive lead safe training.  Such training could be accomplished in four hours and should be provided at no or low cost to anyone desiring it.

Our association provided this type of training to our members until our state health department required that only lead training course certified by them could be provided in WI.

A more detail explanation with support documents:

The long version – with an explanation of my position

Let’s start with a point of clarification. My comments are directed to the most recent proposed revision that requires laboratory dust clearance testing and changes the definition of HEPA vac.  This is the game changer, adding cost and confusion to an already difficult rule.  How would your tenants feel if you had to tell them that they could not reoccupy their unit after simply fixing a window frame until a certified lead sampling tech had time to test it.

We did not file comments on the original EPA RRP rule as it was originally presented it did not appear that it would be overly burdensome. Obviously its implementation turned out to be a bit more onerous than I expected. Rather, we worked hard to insure our members and our own companies could comply with the least amount of hassles.  This included offering reduced price training to members of the Apartment Association of Southeastern WI as well as strategic planning on how to comply.

My background on the lead issue

Almost all of my adult life (since 1977)  I have been a residential landlord.  Our industry has been severely impacted by lead paint remediation costs and litigation.  This hardly seems equitable as none of the current crop of owners had applied the paint and the prior owners were using a product that was not only legal, but mandated for some federally insured housing.

Due to the impact and potential impact on my business I have spent literally thousands of hours trying to understand the issue and working towards resolutions that solve the problem while not running me and every other landlord out of business.  Our company has replaced thousands of window units at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars as a step to mitigating the issue.

In the late 1980’s I was a member of the  Milwaukee Lead Poisoning Task Force, which I remained a participant for the following decade. In 1995 I was appointed to the Wisconsin Legislative Council on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention by then Governor Tommy Thompson.  Thompson went on to be the Secretary of Health under George W Bush.

The committee’s work  became the groundwork for 1999 Wisconsin Act 113. Read a summary of the committee report here.  I coauthored the minority opinion starting on page 26, in which we argued that the final proposal was lacking remediation funding as well as training and education of those who work on and live in pre 1978 housing.

Are all elevated blood lead levels due to lead paint?

No.  Studies such as those in Washington, Cincinnati, Seattle and Baltimore and others point to industrial / automotive emissions as being a major source of lead dust.  Just last week a scientific report was released indicating again that automobile emissions were a leading cause of EBLs in Cleveland during  latter part of the 20th century. (Updated 5/29 to remove bad link)

What are some solutions to the lead paint issue?

The solution to lead based paint hazards created during remodeling and other maintenance activities is, or should be, pretty simple.  The thing that gets in the way is there is so much money available to those who profit by making this larger and more unworkable than it should be.

Simply put: At the beginning of the job make it so you can easily clean it up at the end and then clean it up when you are done.

This means use drop cloths, don’t  sand or use water blasting, use wet scrapping when possible and then clean up after yourself using a HEPA vac and damp mopping. This could easily be taught in well less than half a day.

Note I said drop cloths instead of the now required 6 mil plastic.   If you have ever tried to use plastic for exterior work you know how poorly it contains debris as the slightest breeze sends everything everywhere.  Plastic also is a poor choice for wet scrapping as it becomes dangerously slippery. However the law currently is 6 mil plastic so you MUST use plastic and do not use drop cloths

Barriers to receiving the training need to be eliminated.  Currently training is only available in English, hard to obtain due to a lack of trainers and is prohibitively expensive to many.   Let’s face it, there are a lot of workers in housing who speak Spanish and a lot of small owners and contractors who can’t really afford a day off work plus $280.  The government, paint companies and perhaps home improvement suppliers should all pitch in and make the training free or very cheap.

Why the proposed EPA changes to the RRP are wrong

EPA, HUD and the National Builders Association have all conducted test that show proper work methods eliminate most risks.  Therefore the expensive dust sampling is unnecessary.  But what about the contractors who don’t follow proper methods you ask.  Well let’s be honest.  If they are unwilling to follow the rules to keep the job safe, what makes anyone think they will follow the dust clearance rule?

Additionally, most HEPAs that were purchased for this purpose in the past couple of months do not qualify under the proposed rule.  And the ones that do qualify suck (as in they are junk) because they do not suck (as in suction)

Link to the proposed rule in the Federal Register

The 60 day comment period ends July 6th, 2010

Let the EPA know your opinion:

ADDRESSES: Submit your comments, identified by docket identification (ID)number EPA–HQ–OPPT–2005–0049, by one of the following methods:

Federal eRulemaking Portal:

Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.


Document Control Office (7407M)
Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT), Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW.,
Washington, DC 20460– 0001.

13 Responses to “Well, Mr. Smarty Pants: What should be done about lead paint?”

  1. Interesting observations. The key is to make comments to EPA. They probably won’t listen, but what other choice do we have?

    Remember, there is a difference between the HUD and the EPA -RRP for qualifying. In non HUD only if there are kids under 6 or pregnant woman in the house is it an issue, right?

    Keep in touch..
    Greg Asvestas SA, TX.

    • Tim Ballering says:

      It is actually the other way around. The EPA RRP requirement covers all work work for compensation that disturbs more than six square feet interior or twenty square feet exterior in pre 1978 housing, schools, daycares etc. Compensation includes not only paid contractors, but barter arrangements and landlords doing the work themselves. See http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovation.htm

      There was an opt out for owner occupants, in which you could sign away the requirement for work being done on your primary residence. The EPA proposed to remove this requirement just prior to the rule going into effect and as of July those working for any sort of compensation on owner occupied single family housing must comply with the rule. Remembering that if the dust wipe lab testing becomes law the property owner must provide those reports to every prospective buyer.

      The much publicized delay in enforcement only affects the training portion. You still have to follow the other parts of the rule, which you won’t know because you aren’t trained.

      In addition to the most recent dust wipe proposal the EPA is also proposing to expand this requirement to commercial properties too. See: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-10097.pdf

  2. Joey the carpenter says:

    Where is NARI, the NAHB, the Realtors and other Associations on these changes? I haven’t seen anything from them yet.

  3. J & J says:

    Does our government know what there doing to all us small contractors? We’re a two man operation. Me and my son took the renovator epa class, bought HEPA vacumes and hundreds of feet of plastic. What did we get for our efforts? Lots of bids with very few call backs. Home owners cant afford to pay extra for these new rules!!

    Now the EPA wants to add more costs, this is insane. This has been my life for 40 years and now I may loose it all. Sending out samples to a lab and telling the owner they cant move back into the house until I get the OK, simply will not work with most customers. Where is NARI in all this? What good is it to belong to these organizations! How could this happen with such a terrible economy? Im 60 years old. Remodeling is my life. Im so damn angry. Does anyone in Washington D.C know what it takes to survive?!!!

  4. Bill Menrath says:

    I was involved in every major lead study in Cincinnati in the 1990s and none of those studies showed that using entry mats “greatly reduced the incidence of EBLs”. Had there been such a study I would have heard of it. We completed studies using entry mats that quantified the amount of lead dust transported from exterior surfaces to interior surfaces but none of those studies showed that entry mats reduced blood lead levels. What the entry mats studies do show is that lead dust left on exterior surfaces by contractors who don’t clean up after their work will be carried to interior floors and be available for young children to ingest. The link in your article didn’t work so I could not see the reference cited above.

    • Tim Ballering says:

      As Bill Menrath points out:

      The link in your article didn’t work so I could not see the reference cited above.

      I apologize. It was a link out to a subscription site. However here is the exec summary of another of these studies:

      Reducing lead exposure from remodeling and soil track-in in older homes. Robers, JW | Camann, DE | Spittler, TM

      The Pb D is proportional to the soil Pb ppm. Removal of shoes and use of walk-off mats and vacuums with agitators are low cost ways to control soil Pb track-in and reduce rug Pb D exposure.

  5. Deerhunter says:

    Bill Menrath Other than exploiting people for money in your training classes have you ever used a hammer or worked with the real people that do renovations?

    I don’t think so!!!!! The plastic will kill the shrubs grass and anything it is covering very fast when its hot like it is now.

    Most good renovators will clean up after they have finished a job and what lead dust we did spread is so little that unless the kids are licking the floors they would never get sick from what we did.
    We (renovators) are doing more good than bad because we are replacing the lead coated sashes with new windows and trim.

    Why not focus this study to the lower income people that this affects and help them with replacing /repairing or containing the lead and let us do our jobs??

    Parents need to take responsibility not the contractor that is fixing up the homes we already clean up after we are done.

    My parents and Grandparents grew up in homes full of lead paint and they lived well into there 90s and no one got sick from the paint???? Hmmmm maybe we took care of our homes and had some pride in where we lived???

  6. Dan T says:

    If you actually read the “Urban Soil Lead Abatement Demonstration Project, Volume 4: Cincinnati Report” on EPA’s website that study shows that a full soil abatement does NOT make any significant reduction in blood lead levels in children so how can a door mat do it? I think someone may have eaten paints chips as a kid! Besides everyone in the business knows that that Lead dust from paint and paint chips are the leading causes of most EBL’s. And when properties are remediated and/or peoples behaviors change then the EBLL goes down. End of story!
    And as far as RRP goes we know most small contractors won’t follow the rules anyway so who cares if the costs go up. If the small contractors were smart they could form bigger companies in their local areas to differ some of the costs, but I seriously doubt that will happen.

  7. Claire-ify says:

    Just to clarify a few things in this post… 6 mil plastic is only required on HUD properties, not in the RRP rule. Fines for folks in WI are not $32,500 per violation (which is an EPA fine that was increased to $37,500), they begin at $100 per violation and go to $1,000 per violation with a cap of $30,000 per job site.

    I feel bad for the contractors who are doing the right thing (cleaning up after themselves, performing the work they set out to do, etc) but there are a lot of dishonest people out there… or people who do not take pride in their work and just finish it enough to get paid. I think these are the folks who this law is really trying to reach. I know these folks will be the last to get certified, but at least the good contractors who are out there letting the public know what is now required may help to weed out those bad guys.

    Also, I agree with DeerHunter’s statement about the homeowners. How are we going to get the homeowners/parents to take some responsibility for their children? Before the law was put in place EPA should have established processes to help protect the contractors who are doing everything correctly so they don’t fall victim to lawsuit happy clients. Perhaps this is the reason the clearance requirement is being looked at? It is a more reliable way to prove good work practices. I think it will help, although I hope they have plans in place to make this requirement free, and fast. Otherwise, this requirement will make renovations so expensive no one will be able to afford them.

  8. Tim Ballering says:

    You are correct about the WI fines being lower than EPA’s $37,500, which many EPA documents state as $32,500. This was written with a national perspective regarding the EPA’s proposed change to the dust clearance, which will have to be adopted by the states that run their own programs.

    From the EPA booklet and also in the Federal Register “Small Entity Compliance Guide to Renovate Right EPA’s Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair, and Painting Program” :

    (D) Cover the floor surface with taped-down plastic sheeting in the work area a minimum of six feet beyond the perimeter of surfaces

  9. Claire-ify says:

    I was referring to your reference of 6mil plastic in the solutions you propose, the RRP rule does not require a thickness on the plastic used for containment, just as long as it is disposable and impermeable (and in good condition). 6mil plastic sheeting is only required in HUD properties and on abatement jobs.

    Did you hear EPA extended its commenting period for the Clearance and Clearance testing proposal?

  10. Tim Ballering says:

    Here, in WI, the trainers are specifying 6 mil.

    The point I was attempting to make is plastic works poorly on the exterior or when wet sanding.

  11. You definitely know what you’re referring to. Dude, this blog is just fantastic! I can’t wait to browse a lot more of what you have got to share. Im truly happy that I found this when I did since I was really starting to get uninterested with the total posting scene. Youve changed my mind, dude!

Leave a Reply

preload preload preload