The EPA's Renovation, Repair, and Painting ( RRP) rule is certainly a poorly thought-out regulation that, all though may have been well intended, does certainly have many negative consequences for contractors as well as the children it is supposed to protect. Bill Shaw and Wayne Baruch both make valid points in recent letters to the editor of REMODELING, and I appreciate their perspectives and efforts.
I am, however, continuously disappointed that NAHB leaves out some important information when they claim the lead test kits are not accurate. The EPA-recognized test kits available for use under the rule do reliably determine the presence or absence of lead. If these tests are used, the home owner and the renovator would both know if any lead is present. This information should also be shared with the people who will perform the work; whether they be employees or subcontractors.
However, under the RRP Rule, the EPA says the rule exempts renovations that are free of paint or other surface coatings that contain lead equal to or in excess of 1.0 milligrams per square centimeter (mg/cm2) or 0.5% by weight. This type of testing must be done by a lead testing professional. The EPA-recognized test kits available for use by certified renovators are not approved to determine the amount of lead present, only if there is any lead. I discussed this in much more detail in a blog I posted on Aug. 15, 2010.
That being the case, under the RRP Rule, a surface can be tested by a professional and can be found to have no lead under the legal definition of lead paint used in the rule.
As I stated in my 2010 blog, one way to think about this might be to relate it to eating fish. The government often says that if you fish in certain bodies of polluted water, you can safely eat up to so many of the fish you catch without any health concerns.If the government says you can eat up to 3 fish a year, how safe would you feel eating even one fish? Using this analogy, how safe might the home owner feel having renovations done without using lead-safe work practices if there is any lead at all present at their property? I do believe the choice should be theirs, but with that choice they should also own the responsibility for their decisions. I also believe pregnant women and their families should have this information before they decide to opt out or not. In my opinion this consideration has been missing from the dialog so far.
I also believe we all should be concerned about the workers who do this work. Under OSHA regulations, workers must be protected from any amount of lead. So even if the property owner and the contractor agree to an opt-out, workers should be properly protected from any exposure to lead, even if the amount is under the legal definition in the RRP Rule.
In addition to lobbying to bring the opt-out back, perhaps NAHB and other trade associations, including NARI to which I belong, should be lobbying for a place on the opt-out form where the contractor will have to sign acknowledging his/her responsibility to protect all workers as per the OSHA Lead In Construction Standards [rule].
All human beings deserve to be protected from the hazards of lead paint exposure. It is my opinion that workers’ rights should be considered and protected within any amendment to RRP.