The EPA Leadsafe certification logo, photo courtesy of the EPA
This article was updated on 12/24/20.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began to realize the danger of lead poisoning from sources such as gasoline, plumbing pipes, and lead-based paint more than 2 decades ago. It phased out using this toxic paint in homes in 1978, although some states voluntarily banned it earlier.1
The Environmental Protection Agency website states, Lead paint poisoning affects over one million children today. Adverse health effects include learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and speech delays.2
The chances of contacting and absorbing lead from old paint are at the greatest during home renovations and repairs. This is when when sawing, sanding, and otherwise disturbing the paint can cause it to become airborne. This is why it is called "friable." This is the primary reason why contractors are now required to be lead-safe certified and homeowners are responsible for verifying this when selecting a contractor.
From Dictionary.com, "friable: easily crumbled or reduced to powder; crumbly."3
The only exceptions where being certified is not a strict requirement are in homes build after 1978, or if built prior to that, the work area must be less than 6 square feet indoors, or 20 square feet outdoors, within a 30-day period.
Replacing windows is not an exception. Why not? Even if the window frames are metal or vinyl, the adjoining surfaces are likely to contain lead and the replacement will likely disturb it. Despite being a government regulation, a ray of common sense shines through; how odd, yes?
The Environmental Protection Agency Certification Process
The new rule is applicable to all general contractors, painting companies, maintenance companies, handymen, etc. In the majority of circumstances, each and every worker doesn't have to trudge through the complete process. Only one worker is required to take the 8-hour Lead Renovator course from a training provider that has been duly certified by the EPA to conduct it.
After successful completion, the trainer submits the paperwork to the government along with a hefty $300 fee which is essentially yet another rubber stamp tax levied on private business. It's not an extortion scam when a government agency does it. The homeowner can expect a portion or all of the cost of this fee to be passed on to him. The contractor is now a certified firm and will have to repeat the process every 5 years.
The process is similar to an asbestos abatement project; containment is key. The certified staff member must be present on the home renovation site during containment setup as well as the final work area verification and cleanup.
So be aware that if this staff member is a supervisor rather than a worker, his hourly wages and commuting expenses will also be figured into the bid price. This is another reason that small business start-ups have a hard time succeeding, unless they are in an enterprise zone which Investopedia defines as, "An enterprise zone is a geographic area that has been granted special tax breaks, regulatory exemptions, or other public assistance in order to encourage private economic development and job creation."4
The Downside of the New Home Renovation Regulation
Although training and safe work practices are certainly needed, the cost, additional paperwork, and fear of creeping government interference are likely to drive more small businesses to work under the table. In all the trades this encourages employment by illegal aliens. As I was a carpenter for 20-odd years, I witnessed this increase in illegal employment (or shall we say, exploitation) rise in lockstep along with government regulations.
The mandate to provide health care insurance for employees under Obamacare is already doing that. Many small remodelers dont provide medical coverage insurance benefits now because they simply cant afford it. They do this by shorting worker hours or working under the table.
Dont get me wrong; with a health issue that is known to be so toxic, government should insist that safety precautions are taken. But the contractors and homeowners should not be expected to bear the burden of yet another hefty layer of government fees.
It would make more sense to eliminate some of the absurd pork projects that tax dollars are wasted on every day, and channel some of those funds to pay for these certifications. Since for almost all residential renovation projects there is no oversight of certification, whats the point? For example, in all those years that I was a commercial carpenter, not working on homes, but on new fire stations, schools, hospitals, government buildings, and high-rises, I only saw an OSHA inspector show up one time, and she only stayed around for 10 minutes.
This is just another case of a nanny-state body with no head attached. There are plenty of well-paid civil servants pushing paper, but no enforcement on the local level.
Another problem is that although the EPA does a good job about getting notice of lead paint regulations out to the contractor community, very little information has been provided to the general public.
If a homeowner doesnt know to ask for verification, small business is not likely to offer it as a selling point and the authorities will never know, since painting generally doesnt require a building permit. The EPA Lead-Safe Certification for renovation is basically a money grab, I'm sorry to say.
Kelly R. Smith, I Can Fix Up My Home, Lead-Safe Certification for Renovation, http://www.icanfixupmyhome.com/2010_EPA_Lead_Safe_Certification_for_Renovation.html
EPA, Strengthened Dust-Lead Clearance Levels to Protect Children from Lead Exposure, https://www.epa.gov/lead
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About the author:
Kelly R. Smith was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.