Since the spring of 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) New England regional office has conducted a targeted initiative to improve compliance with laws that protect children from lead-paint poisoning in New Hampshire and Maine. According to a news release from the agency, the EPA has completed 59 lead inspections over two years, leading to 286 more certifications of companies or firms, and 1,156 training certifications of individuals documenting compliance with certification aspects of federal lead renovation rules.
"Protecting children by reducing lead exposure is vitally important and is a high priority for EPA," Deborah Szaro, acting regional administrator of EPA's New England office, said in a public statement. "Throughout New England, including the Maine and New Hampshire seacoast areas, there are many older residences and buildings that haven't been renovated, and lead paint may still be found in these properties. Lead paint and dust hazards created during renovations continue to be sources of potential exposures to children."
The initiative included extensive outreach in the seacoast communities of New Hampshire and Maine to ensure home-renovation and painting contractors understood the legal obligations to inform customers about lead-paint hazards and to follow measures to reduce lead exposure to lead during home renovation projects. Several of the inspections conducted by the agency required the assessment of fines for firms' failure to comply with the federal Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule. Of the 59 total inspections, the EPA has completed four enforcement actions, is pursuing penalty actions against a dozen firms, and has issued non-penalty warnings to 14 others.
RRP requires that when remodelers are working in houses built before 1978 on projects that could disturb lead paint, they must determine whether any lead paint is present and—if they do find presence of the paint or didn't do a test—must then use certain practices to contain the spread of the lead paint dust while they perform the remodel. The company doing the work and the renovators following lead-safe work practices both must be certified by EPA-approved training programs.
The EPA has engaged in similar efforts in the New England region over the past five years. It completed targeted efforts to improve compliance with lead-paint protection laws in New Haven, Conn., in 2014, in Nashua, N.H., in 2015, and in Lewiston/Auburn, Maine, in 2016. A recent report from the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition found 1,800 children were poisoned by lead in the past five years, and an additional 850 kids were likely poisoned but not identified. Maine's childhood screening rate for lead poisoning is the lowest among New England states, though a law mandating a lower threshold for household inspections has yielded more home inspections and lead-hazard removals.