In mid-January, the EPA sent this RRP rule postcard to 540,000 contractors by mail and electronically.
Environmental Protection Agency In mid-January, the EPA sent this RRP rule postcard to 540,000 contractors by mail and electronically.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) moved a step toward expanding its controversial lead-paint rule to public and commercial buildings by announcing it's thinking of using a less formulaic system to determine when the rule must be followed.

EPA's framework document outlines what it describes as a "tailored approach" to deciding when its Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) rule will apply in public and commercial structures. To date, only homes and child-care facilities have been subject to the regulation, which has been in effect since 2010.

For homes, remodelers working on projects built before 1978 must check for the presence of lead paint (which was commonly used until that year). If tests detect lead paint, a company certified in lead-safe work practices must then do the work. Failure to follow the rules can cost remodelers up to $37,500 in fines per day.

The standard for taking action in homes is relatively simple: If a certain level of lead is detected, or is suspected of being present at those levels, then remodelers must act. But for public and commercial buildings, EPA said its standard could be based on a variety of evidence. These might include:

  • IQ tests of young children that show ill effects from lead exposure.
  • Changes of lead levels in adults' blood.
  • How big the rooms are.
  • How much time people spend in the facility.
  • How the building is configured.
  • The building's purpose.

"Using the tailored approach, EPA would model exposure to lead from renovations in a wide distribution of building types, resulting from various renovation activities and taking into consideration the different age groups of occupants and the varied exposure times that might occur," EPA said. "This distribution of activities would allow EPA to characterize risk across all the exposure conditions and situations that may occur."

The EPA stressed that this framework isn't an official proposal--that's to come later--but rather is meant to show where it's headed and gather public response to that direction.

One thing the document doesn't do is give any sense of how remodelers would implement the rule. During a hearing last June, representatives from remodeling groups hammered the EPA over the idea, stressing real-world concerns about whether it's even possible to remove lead-paint threats from a public or commercial building while it's being renovated.

See past REMODELING stories about RRP and lead-safe practices.