How the latest changes in the lead paint rules affect remodelers

The EPA lead rule continues to pose challenges for remodelers

October 12, 2010

Many of our fellow contractors are currently violating the EPA’s Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule.  That’s because they have either not heard of this new Federal Regulation or have heard about it, but are very confused about its details. In fact, there has been so much misleading, and completely false, information published about this RRP rule, no wonder people are frustrated. This article will help you and other contractors clearly understand the RRP rule and have a reliable resource for accurate answers.
Do you remodel, renovate, repair, or paint “Target Housing” or “Child-Occupied Facilities,” built before 1978 to make them more comfortable, energy-efficient, or “roomy?”  Specifically, consider the following:
Do you paint?  
Do you do “Weatherization” improvements?
Do you install new energy-efficient windows or doors?  
Do you install siding or trim?  
Do you do room additions?  
Do you perform electrical, plumbing or HVAC services that would involve cutting any holes in your clients’ walls or ceilings?  
Would any of your remodeling activities require the removal of baseboards or other molding?  
Would any of your roofing projects require your clients’ drip edge or fascia to be disturbed or removed?
Do you do “handyman” activities or maintain rental property?
Do you disturb paint in any way?
If any of these conditions apply, the EPA’s RRP rule affects you. It became enforceable on April 22. This rule is targeted at reducing your, and your clients’, exposure to Lead-Based Paint Dust generated by traditional renovation work. The rule requires that all renovations of pre-1978 target housing or child-occupied facilities, performed for compensation, must be conducted by a certified firm using certified renovators. That applies to you AND all of the subcontractors that you hire to perform your renovations.
This RRP rule requires certified firms and the specially trained certified renovators to do their lead-safe work practices in a very specific way and to maintain very specific records and paperwork for three years, since the EPA can demand to see those records up to three years in the past. If those records are missing or incomplete or show violations of this RRP rule, the EPA is allowed to fine that violator so much money—up to $37,500.00 per violation per day— it will likely cause significant financial issues.
If a contractor erroneously thinks he or she can “get away” with not complying with the RRP rule and is disturbing more than 6 square feet of paint insider per room, or more than 20 square feet outside, on any pre-1978 target housing or child-occupied facility right now, there is a three-year “Window of Liability” during which he or she will have to worry about getting caught violating the regulation. In addition to EPA field investigators, such as those who investigate storm water violations, the EPA will rely on homeowners and other concerned citizens to report violators to the Lead Hotline at (800) 424-LEAD (5323).

Why is Lead Such a Hazard?
Lead is a very hazardous material that can cause great harm to humans, especially children.  Although lead-based paint was banned from residential use in 1978, approximately 38 million pre-1978 homes contain this hazard.
Lead is toxic, when ingested or inhaled, and can cause children to develop learning disabilities and behavioral problems, such as hyperactivity, and can even reduce their IQ. In addition to nervous system damage, lead can cause hearing damage, kidney problems, and decreased muscle and bone growth, among other issues.  Even pregnant women who ingest or inhale lead dust can transfer lead to their babies in the womb, which can cause developmental issues. Obviously, these lead-induced problems can negatively affect children for the rest of their lives.  
Lead-based paint, which is peeling, deteriorating, chalking, or has been disturbed, is a common source of paint chips and dust, both inside a home and in soil. Children typically ingest lead dust during normal play activities because they often put their lead-contaminated hands, fingers and toys in their mouths. Depending on diet and nutrition, children can absorb a very high percentage of lead, which can accumulate in the human body, especially in the bones where it can remain for decades.
Even children who seem healthy may have lead poisoning. Thus, it is often misdiagnosed. The only sure way to determine if a child has lead poisoning is to have his or her medical provider conduct a blood lead level test.
Adults can also be affected by lead. When lead dust is inhaled or ingested, adults can develop high blood pressure and hypertension, kidney problems, digestive issues, memory and concentration problems, anger management problems, and joint and muscle aches, among other conditions.  
Lead poisoning is, however, preventable. During a renovation, when you minimize the creation of lead-based paint dust, properly contain the dust you do create, and thoroughly clean the dust so that you are in compliance with the RRP rule, you will reduce lead exposure. In addition to benefitting you, your co-workers, and your clients, think about how many other people your actions will help.  
That is why it is important for you to be aware of the hazards of lead, avoid contact with it, avoid exposing your clients to it, and ensure that your renovations are being performed according to the RRP Rule requirements.

New, Confusing “Delay”
Although the RRP rule took effect on April 22, and was further strengthened on July 6, the EPA announced a confusing “delay” in the certification requirements on June 18. However, this announcement did NOT delay the conformance to the RRP rule requirements. All lead safe work practices, requirements, and record-keeping mandates must still be specifically followed as the rule states and the EPA will continue to issue fines for violations. Unfortunately, this announcement is going to cause many people to be confused.  
The EPA will now allow firms to have until October 1 to “receive” their “approved” certified firm certification from the EPA, which can take up to 90 days of processing time as allowed by the RRP rule. To be clear, the October 1 deadline is NOT a postmark deadline, it is the date that the “approved” certified firm certificate must be “received” back from the EPA. Beginning on October 1 the EPA can take enforcement actions for firms not being certified. Remember, even if the firm has not yet received the certified firm certificate, the firm must still perform all of the requirements of the RRP Rule. If you need the direct link to the EPA’s Certified Firm application, please contact me or you can research it yourself at
Additionally, the EPA extended the deadline for individual renovation workers to enroll in a certified renovator training class to September 30 and mandated that the training must be successfully completed by December 31. However, the EPA still requires all lead safe work practices mandated by the RRP rule to be followed even if the renovators have not yet taken the training. So, you can see, the “delay” does not mean anything and will just cause confusion.

What To Expect During an RRP Rule-Compliant Renovation
Although the details of the RRP rule and the Lead Safe Work Practices are covered in detail during training classes, you may want to know some very basic information about what happens during a proper renovation of a pre-1978 home, with lead-based paint, conducted under the RRP rule.  
It is assumed that your company is a certified firm, already approved by the EPA, otherwise you would be violating the RRP rule Regulation and risking fines.
You are required to assign a certified renovator to each renovation project.
You and your certified renovator must thoroughly know the RRP rule as well as when it applies to your projects AND when it does not apply to your projects.
You must deliver free copies of the “Renovate Right” pamphlet to specific people, and document that delivery, within a certain amount of days prior to the start of your renovation project. That has been the regulation since December 2008 and the number of days in advance differs depending on whether or not federal funds are involved.
Your assigned certified renovator must train all non-certified workers and document that training.
Your certified renovator must perform specific tests for lead-based paint in the area of your renovation or hire a third-party professional to do Paint Chip Sampling or use an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) Analyzer to determine if there is lead-based paint present.
Your certified renovator must put up warning signs and notify the residents to keep out of the work area.
Your certified renovator must supervise the installation of the required containment to keep the dust, which is generated during the renovation, inside the work area. The RRP rule requires that all work area windows, HVAC ducts, and doors must be sealed and that one door should have a special double door flap installed to allow access to the work area. Impermeable plastic sheeting should cover the work area a certain distance from the surface being renovated, which differs if the renovation is inside or outside.
Comply with all recommendations for Personal Protective Equipment for your certified renovator and trained workers. It is crucially important that NO dust is taken out of the work area.
Ensure that the three EPA Prohibited Practices are NOT used at any time. There are three additional prohibited practices if HUD Rules apply.
Ensure that your work area is stringently cleaned every day using a HEPA vacuum and wet wipes.
Ensure that all waste from the work area is bagged or wrapped in a very special way and then thoroughly cleaned with a HEPA vacuum before leaving the work area and being stored in a secure area.  You must comply with all local environmental regulations for waste.
After you have disturbed all of the paint you are going to disturb, which includes sanding or scraping, removing moulding or other components, demolition, or any other modification, your certified renovator must supervise a final thorough cleaning using very special procedures.
Your certified renovator must perform a detailed visual inspection and re-clean if necessary.
Your certified renovator must perform an official cleaning verification, using specific procedures, or have a clearance examination performed by a Licensed Lead Risk Assessor, Licensed Lead Inspector, or Certified Dust Sampling Technician.
Provide specific people with a post-renovation report, which will contain the results of your lead paint testing and a checklist of all of the steps of the RRP rule to which you had to comply. This must be given within a certain timeframe depending on EPA or HUD requirements.
Collect and maintain all records for three years as an EPA requirement or more, if you choose, for civil liability.
The EPA’s RRP rule contains a multitude of very specific requirements that are reviewed in detail during the training. It is extremely important that you know and completely understand these requirements for you, your certified renovator, and your trained workers to work safely with lead-based paint.
your competitive advantage
If you are performing any type of remodeling or renovation projects on pre-1978 target housing or child-occupied facilities, please make sure you are keeping yourself, your co-workers and your clients protected from lead-based paint hazards.  
When you receive your certified firm approval from the EPA, I highly recommend that you actively publicize that you are a certified firm and, after you successfully complete certified renovator training, let everyone know that you are a certified renovator.  Put your certification information on your business cards, letterhead, e-mails, signs, sales presentations, website, and all correspondence.
Once you are certified, if any of your potential clients in pre-1978 target housing or child-occupied facilities are receiving multiple bids, make sure they clearly understand that you are legally compliant with the RRP rule and that ALL other contractors who are bidding on the job must be certified firms with a certified renovator assigned to the job or they are violating the RRP rule regulations and exposing clients, and their families, to lead-based paint hazards.
In addition to contacting me for helpful information, you can go to or call 1-800-424-LEAD (5323) for lead data. Additionally, you can get some great information from the National Center for Healthy Housing at
This information is important for you, your co-workers, and your clients, as well as all of the related families. Working safely with lead-based paint is very possible when you know the RRP rule and closely follow its requirements.  Reduce your risk and liability. Avoid costly fines.  Do the right thing. Help to eliminate lead poisoning from lead-based paint dust.

Scott von Gonten, CGA, CGP, LLRA, CR, CDST, a 23-year veteran of the building industry, is a Licensed Lead Risk Assessor and a Principal Instructor, nationwide, for the National Center for Healthy Housing, an EPA-accredited training provider for Certified Renovator and Certified Dust Sampling Technician training. You can contact him at or (713) 213-1205.

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